Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce

What would summer be without glorious fresh tomatoes? About mid-January I start really wishing for the fresh taste of home-grown tomatoes, making spring seem just too far away.

Garden fresh tomatoes, to me, defines what the word Summer means.

Summer morning glories
When I was a teenager, my Mother used to can or freeze any and everything she could to feed us over the winter. Tomato juice, diced tomatoes, green beans, sauerkraut, kosher pickles (whole, sliced and spears), bread and butter pickles, jellies and jams, and apple juice (which went into the freezer).

In my new home, I do not yet have a garden. But, still wanting to enjoy fresh tomatoes, I planted six large patio pots with various tomatoes, although I cannot say they were totally successful. Next year, I will have three raised planting beds for garden space along with the pots from this year. Lucky for me, my neighbor is having a bumper tomato crop this year.

So, while making batches of salsa, tomato jam and diced tomatoes, I decided that some summer-fresh pasta sauce was definitely needed. Once I added the pasta in I should just have stood back! Not only do I not have pictures, I don't even have leftovers! That is how I know a recipe is a keeper.

Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce
makes about 3 quarts
3 lbs. Roma tomatoes (cherry or plum work ok too), washed, halved
1/2 lb. ground turkey
1 lb. ground beef (85/15)
1 medium carrot, grated
1 small summer squash, grated
1/2 each, fist sized green, red and yellow pepper, diced on the small side
6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, washed, chiffonade
To taste: garlic powder, onion powder, soy sauce, salt, black pepper.
1 lb. cooked Pasta of your choice, reserve 1/2 cup cooking water

Halved tomatoes should half fill a dutch oven or 6 qt. stock pot. Start tomatoes on med. heat until they begin to boil. Stir as needed to prevent sticking. Once tomatoes begin to boil reduce heat. Each time tomatoes return to a boil, reduce heat. Cook tomatoes until they resemble coarse applesauce in texture.

Chiffonade fresh basil leaves and add to tomatoes and stir. Season tomato sauce with salt and black pepper, garlic and onion powders, to taste.

Grate carrot and summer squash and add to tomatoes and allow to cook about 15 min. Add diced peppers and cook another 5, stirring as needed. 

Mix turkey and beef together, season with 3 to 4 Tbsp. soy sauce. Add to tomato sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is broken up and completely cooked through. Allow to cook 5 to 10 before tasting to adjust seasonings.

Add cooked pasta to tomato sauce in pot and allow to cook about 10 to 15 minutes, so pasta takes in flavor from sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings.

NOTES: This is a simple sauce, but it does take a little time to cook down to the desired consistency. You may be able to let this cook in a crock pot, adding noodles just before serving. All the measurements are my best guess. Who thinks to measure when they are making something on the fly?

Grating vegetables the family won't eat is a great way to add body to the sauce. Trust me, they won't know unless you tell them. The vegetables can be anything you happen to love or have in the fridge and need to be used. 

You can use any kind of pasta you like. If the sauce is too thick after adding the pasta, use reserved cooking water to thin. Just remember to taste after adding cooking water to adjust seasonings to your tastes.

To chiffonade fresh basil leaves, gather 6 to 8 leaves, wash and stack one on top of the other. Roll length wise or side-to-side and slice in 1/8 inch strips with a sharp knife. You want to cut them not crush them. Once chiffonaded, I let mine unroll and then chopped the strips into smaller pieces. If you don't have fresh basil available, you can use dried basil (apx. 1 tsp.).

Praying Mantis on my dining room window.

It's a good thing for me that I had tasted this because I sat down on the couch after cooking and fell asleep! My guys ate almost all of this before I woke up! I was lucky they left me about a cup's worth!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Noisy Mornings

I usually like to write my blog posts in the morning, but with school having started, it messes my schedule up. Mostly because I have a night owl who doesn't want to go to sleep at bedtime and doesn't want to get up in the morning. Ah, teenagers.

So, this messes up my morning because I get stressed when he comes downstairs 2 minutes before the bus with socks in hand instead of on his feet. We wake him with time to dress and eat (although I would have thought by 16 you'd figure out how the alarm clock works). He lags so long I made muffins that he can grab and dash out the door with.

We live on a pretty good size highway and the bus stops directly in front of the house. I know it used to drive me crazy waiting for kids to cross the road and take a seat, no care in the world that they were holding anyone up. So, once stressed I need a while to become calm enough to put words together in decent sentences.

Thank God for coffee.

Along another line, my babies opened their eyes and began running around the yard. They are like little pinballs. I already had to save one from a window well. They get panicked and just jump right in and then are terrified when you pull them out. These guys are so tiny. One could sit in my hand cupped. Though, when pulling bunnies out of window wells, I've learned to just lift the bunny and let'em run. They seem to calm down sooner.

Yesterday, I scared one of them because my honeydew melon fell out of my hands and rolled into some long grass where he was hiding. He ran in front of me and under my car and looked to be headed for the garage. Hopefully he didn't go in the garage, but around to the other side. Steve did check, but didn't see any babies in there. It would be awful for one to be stuck inside when it's hot.

more Bunnie cuteness
Later today I am going to be working with tomatoes. My neighbor's tomatoes went into overdrive and she gave me an entire bucket of plum tomatoes. I hope it's enough, otherwise I might have to get some more. I gave her a chocolate banana bread with chocolate chips. I will try to remember to take pictures.

The recipe I want to use involves roasting the halved tomatoes to loosen the skin and then canning as chopped or crushed tomatoes. Since I use piles of these, I decided that would be the simplest. I may want to get more to make salsa. I also have some prune plums to make plum chutney. Yep, busy, busy.

Add in laundry and sewing and it sounds like a fun day to me. Then cheeseburger casserole for dinner. So in and out of the kitchen, plus out to water my poor plants. The tomatoes are considering conking out. The patty pan is going into overdrive with leaves. My peppers are still shooting out lots of fruit. I also took all my houseplants outside and repotted them. They are very contented on our back patio out of direct line of the sun.

Morning glories to brighten everyone's day. Time to start the tomatoes.