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Tuesday
Jun142016

Simple Roasted Tomato Marinara Sauce

Being that this is Summer Tomato and that local tomatoes are coming in, I’m going to teach you how to make a swoon-worthy Simple Roasted Tomato Marinara sauce that you can savor now and stow-away for winter. 

Roasting the tomatoes prior to pureeing them concentrates the flavor and results in a perfectly balanced tomato sauce that, unlike most store-bought marinaras, doesn’t need to be loaded with sugar. 

For the richest flavor, we highly recommend getting the tomatoes from the farmers market, or better yet, your own backyard. Most of the tomatoes sold in grocery stores have been bred for shelf-life and picked under-ripe, resulting in an unremarkable and less nourishing tomato. 

To preserve tomatoes for winter, you need not get out the canning equipment. This sauce freezes beautifully and can be easily stored in re-sealable freezer bags (I highly recommend making a double batch). If you want to freeze your sauce in glass jars, just make sure the jar is straight-sided and that you leave room for the contents to expand when frozen. 

Come December when the days are shorter and colder, you’ll want to hug me when you remember that the essence of summer is hiding in your freezer. 

 

Simple Roasted Tomato Marinara

Yield: about 4 cups

 

Ingredients
  • 5 pounds ripe tomatoes, halved
  • 1 whole garlic bulb, top trimmed off
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Preparation

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with a Silpat(silicone mat) and arrange the tomatoes on top, cut side up, or place the tomatoes in a large roasting pan. Drizzle with half of the olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. 

Drizzle a little of the olive oil on top of the whole garlic bulb (left unpeeled) and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Wrap the bulb tightly in foil and place it on the baking sheet with the tomatoes. 

Place the baking sheets on the center and upper racks of the oven or the roasting pan in the center of the oven. Roast the garlic bulb for 45 minutes and the tomatoes for 1 hour, or until the tomatoes have reduced and the edges begin to blacken (if your tomatoes are really juicy this may take longer). 

Allow the tomatoes to cool for 10 to 15 minutes then transfer them to a high-speed blender or food processor. Unwrap the garlic bulb and once it is cool enough to handle squeeze the individual cloves into the blender or food processor. Add the basil, oregano, if using, remaining olive oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, red pepper flakes (if you want your sauce a little spicy), and black pepper.

Process the tomato mixture on high speed until smooth. Taste the sauce and add additional salt and pepper if needed. If your tomatoes were not sweet enough and your sauce tastes a little acidic, add 1 tablespoon of coconut sugar (or regular sugar) to enhance the flavor. Alternatively, you can thicken the sauce and concentrate the flavor by simmering it for 15 to 20 minutes on the stovetop.

Allow the sauce to cool then transfer it to pint-size freezer safe containers or re-sealable food storage bags. Seal the containers tightly then store the sauce in the fridge for up to 5 days or the freezer for up to 9 months.

Serve on top of homemade pizza, pasta, baked fish or chicken, and more.

Elyse Kopecky is a whole foods chef currently co-authoring a cookbook for runners, Run Fast Eat Slow, with Olympic marathoner and longtime friend, Shalane Flanagan. After 10 years working for Nike and EA Sports, Elyse decided to pursue her passion for talking and writing about food. She went to NYC to study culinary nutrition at the Natural Gourmet Institute and has taken cooking classes throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. Sign-up for sneak peeks of Shalane and Elyse’s book at runfasteatslow.com or follow along @ElyseKopecky.

Monday
Apr182016

Chicken/Mushroom Pie Great Comfort Food

Even the word pie is comforting. But then, it would be hard to deny the very real lure of pastry, especially when, as here, you know you're going to dunk it in gravied juices till its luscious lightness has become deliciously, soggily heavy. I concede, however, that making and rolling out your own pastry is not necessarily the speediest option, so I use bought, all-butter ready-rolled puff pastry and feel fine about it.

I make the pie even easier, by browning the chicken and making the sauce all in one go. And gold-crusted, welcoming pies for two people in half an hour is not bad going.

INGREDIENTS

Serves: 2

  • 3 pieces bacon (cut or scissored into 1 inch strips)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic flavored oil
  • 2 cups cremini mushrooms (sliced into eighth inch pieces)
  • 8 ounces chicken thigh fillets (cut into 1 inch pieces)
  • 2½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1¼ cups hot chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon marsala
  • 8½ ounces all-butter ready-rolled puff pastry sheet (9 1/2 x 9½ inch)

 

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7/425ºF. In a heavy-based frying pan, fry the bacon strips in the oil until beginning to crisp, then add the sliced mushrooms and soften them in the pan with the bacon.
  2. Turn the chicken strips in the flour and thyme (you could toss them about in a freezer bag), and then melt the butter in the bacon-and-mushroom pan before adding the floury chicken and all the flour left in the bag. Stir around with the bacon and mushrooms until the chicken begins to colour.
  3. Pour in the hot stock and Marsala, stirring to form a sauce, and let this bubble away for about 5 minutes.
  4. Take two 300ml / 1¼ cup pie-pots (if yours are deeper, don't worry, there will simply be more space between contents and puff pastry top) and make a pastry rim for each one - by this I mean an approx. 1cm / ½ inch strip curled around the top of each pot. Dampen the edges with a little water to make the pastry stick.
  5. Cut a circle bigger than the top of each pie-pot for the lid, and then divide the chicken filling between the two pots.
  6. Dampen the rim of the pastry again and then pop on the lid of each pie, sealing the edges with your fingers or the underneath of the prongs of a fork.
  7. Cook the pies for about 20 minutes turning them around halfway through cooking. Once cooked, they should have puffed up magnificently.
Friday
Jan292016

Sweet Potato Macaroni and Cheese

I’m just going to say it: this is the best macaroni cheese I’ve ever eaten. I don’t feel it’s boastful to say as much, as the greatness lies not in any brilliance on my part, but in the simple tastes of the ingredients as they fuse in the heat. That’s home cooking for you.

I do rather love the way these little macaroni cheeses, with their pixie-penne, look like they’ve been made with artificially coloured, cheap squeezy cheese or out of a box, when in fact their exotic glow comes courtesy of the earthy goodness of a sweet potato.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb sweet potatoes
  • 10 oz pennette (or other small, short pasta)
  • 4 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon english mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika (plus another quarter teaspoon to sprinkle on top)
  • 3 oz feta cheese/or any other cheese
  • 1 ¼ cups sharp cheddar (plus 1 quarter cup to sprinkle on top)
  • salt (to taste)
  • pepper (to taste)
Friday
Oct162015

Fried Chicken Perfect for Watching Football Games

Who doesn't love extra-crispy old-school fried chicken? Here's a faster way to prepare it.

Ingredients
2 chicken drumsticks, skin on2 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
3 to 4 cups milk
2 1/4 cups solid vegetable shortening, for frying
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 egg, beaten

Directions
In a medium pan, place chicken and cover with milk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours to overnight. This helps tenderize the meat, but is optional

In a large saucepan over a medium-high heat, using tongs, transfer chicken into pot, then pour in the milk. Bring milk to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low allowing to simmer until the chicken is cooked through entirely, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the milk, and place on a rack to cool. Allow them to sit until warm about 15 minutes, and then pat dry using a kitchen towel.

Heat vegetable shortening in a Dutch oven over high heat just until it's nearly at the smoking point around 325 degrees F.

In a large zip-lock bag, add salt, flour, cayenne pepper, shake to combine.

In a medium bowl, beat 1 egg.

Place each piece of chicken, 1 at a time, in the bag and shake to coat the chicken. Then dip chicken into the egg to coat. Place the chicken back into the flour to coat for a second time. Repeat this method on remaining 3 pieces of chicken.

Gently drop each piece of chicken into hot oil, allowing the skin to crisp and turn golden brown in color, about 1 minute per side. Remove from the oil and transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Serve immediately.

Sunday
Aug302015

Chocolate Fudge Cake for Comfort and Tailgating!

This is the sort of cake you'd want to eat the whole of when you'd been chucked. But even the sight of it, proud and tall and thickly iced on its stand, comforts.

It's also great for tailgating!

Ingredients 

for the cake

  • 2 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups superfine sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup best-quality unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted and cooled)
  • ½ cup corn oil
  • 1 ¼ cups chilled water

for the fudge icing

  • 6 oz bittersweet chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
  • 18 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)
  • 2 ¾ cups confectioners' sugar (sifted)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract