Quick Pasta with Red Sauce and Ricotta

pasta with red sauce and ricotta

With our hurried society, we are always trying to conserve on time; thus, I try to respect this need for efficiency with my cooking instructions, where provision of optimum health is also a major focus.  My mind is made for details; henceforth, I spell out shortcuts that streamline cooking; this can make a particular recipe look long, but indeed it is concise, with an abundance of clock-conserving treasures.

This quick version of red sauce can be made in just 30 minutes, thus honoring our crowded schedules; it pleases with its added topping of ricotta cheese.

A dear friend always blesses me with gifts from her home, when she visits.  I never know what new gadget or food item she will introduce upon her arrival.  Several weeks ago, Wanda came bearing homemade ricotta, which she had made in a crock pot, with her suggestion to put it on top of spaghetti sauce.  As she cooks for a diabetic challenged husband, she serves just a little gluten-free pasta with lots of red sauce, topped with her ricotta; you may choose similar adjustments.  (A 5-star receipt for simple homemade ricotta cheese can be found at http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/homemade-ricotta-cheese-crock-pot-345985)

Discipline is called for in any recipe, whether it be in the kitchen or life, with the constant need for balance between demands and desires.  Always we long for the best taste to be left in our mouths, but oh the challenge in allowing the time required for such quality.  Here I sacrifice some of the depth of flavor, which can be found in my moderately-more-lengthy instructions for Red Sauce for Pasta or Spaghetti Squash (2017/04/10).

Italian comes to mind when we think of red sauce; tomatoes, however, are a relatively new food in Italy.  In the 16th century, conquistadors introduced these to Europe, where they took centuries to become a leading world vegetable.  America didn’t fully accept this fruit-it is actually a fruit, not a vegetable-until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a time that simultaneously saw an inundation of Italian immigrants on our shores.  For more on this history, see Spicy Sausage and Tomatoes (2017/09/25) and Ropa Vieja (2017/10/09).

If you are wanting a fine-textured red sauce, know that canned tomatoes, unlike fresh tomatoes, usually don’t boil down to a smooth puree, as calcium salts are added by many canners-this calcium firms the cell walls of tomatoes and keeps the pieces in tact.  Since these salts interfere with the disintegration process during cooking, be sure to check the labels on all canned whole tomatoes, only buying brands that don’t list calcium, unless a chunky sauce is desired.  I use canned tomato sauce here.

Pressured agendas bring loss of strength, while slowing down to smell the roses allows for the discovery of innate gifts, which were positioned by divine ordinance long ago.  We get to open these daily, if we but exercise patience.

References:

Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), p. 206.

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 2004, 1984), p. 331.

Quick Pasta with Red Sauce and Ricotta  Yields: 2-3 servings.  Total prep time: 30 minutes.  Note: may double the recipe.

15-oz can tomato sauce  (Organic is best, which is only slightly more expensive; available at most supermarkets.)

3/4 tsp dried oregano  (Trader Joe’s has an excellent organic bottle for $1.99.)

1 tsp dried basil  (Also found at Trader’s.)

3/4 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is important for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

4 med/lg cloves garlic  (For easy prep, use 2 cubes frozen garlic from Trader’s.)

1 tsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best, as olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1 med yellow onion, chopped small

2-3 servings of pasta

2 sausage links  (Natural sausage is best; I used Fence Line Hot Italian Style here.)

Spray oil  (Coconut is best for health; Pam coconut spray oil is available in most supermarkets; our local Winco brand, however, is much cheaper.)

2 tbsp tomato paste  (Freeze remaining paste in individual 1/4 c bags, to be thawed conveniently.)

Avocado slices

Ricotta cheese for topping

  1. tomato sauce simmering

    Take ricotta out of refrigerator, to bring to room temperature for serving.

  2. In a medium saucepan, place tomato sauce and 1/2 can of water, to which you have added seasonings and garlic.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; reduce heat to med/low and simmer, stirring occasionally.
  3. Heat oil in a sauté pan; sweat onion in hot oil (cook only until translucent); add to sauce.
  4. Fill a 3-quart saucepan 4/5th’s full of water, to which you have added a small amount of salt and oil (any kind will do).   Place over medium heat; when water boils, add pasta and cook for 7 minutes, or until al dente.
  5. Meanwhile cut sausage diagonally and sauté until light brown, in a frying pan sprayed with oil.  When done, add to tomato sauce.
  6. Slice avocados, set aside.
  7. When pasta is finished, drain in a colander, rinsing well.
  8. prepping pasta

    Finish the sauce, by adding tomato paste, stirring until thickened.

  9. Rinse pasta under hot tap water to warm it.  Place pasta on individual plates; pour sauce over top; garnish with large dollop of ricotta and a slice of avocado (see top photo).
  10. Quick, easy, delightful!

Ropa Vieja (Omelette)

ropa vieja (omelette)

Our typical American cuisine was inspired by the familiar recipes brought over by English, French, Spanish, and Dutch settlers, as well as those of Scotch-Irish and German colonists, who followed these early immigrants; all of this European influence merged with the available Native American foods.  1

African slaves played a broad part in fashioning our distinctive Southern cookery; the mistresses of these slaves initially taught these, our people, receipts recalled from their individual heritages; then, with the Africans’ natural appreciation of and aptitude for cooking, prized dishes were developed, which were used in the strong social competition among the plantations.  These delicacies, which in large part formed this region’s cuisine, were not initially compiled in books for the public, but rather closely safeguarded within each family, due to the rivalry among these established settlements; thus, there were no Southern cook books until the first quarter of the 19th century.  A few recipes from this geographic area were preserved, however, in some American cook books, mostly those published in and around Philadelphia.  2

Mrs. Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife, printed in 1824, in Washington D.C., is an early example of a receipt book specializing in foods from the South.  It also includes some Northern recipes, as well as a few Spanish dishes, of which our Ropa Vieja omelette is one; this promising recipe boasts of only five ingredients, one of which is the garden tomato, and just a few succinct instructions; its simplicity makes it exceptional.  3

In On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee explains why this sweet-tart, botanical fruit tomato, which is used as a vegetable, has such great appeal.  He attributes this attractiveness to the unique flavor brought about by its low sugar content (3%), as well as the large amount of savory glutamic acid (as much as 0.3% of its weight), and ample quantities of aromatic sulfur compounds.  These two latter ingredients, present in ripe tomatoes, predispose them to complement the flavor of meats; this is because these two substances exist more commonly in animal flesh than fruits; thus, their rich presence in tomatoes allows for added taste to meat dishes.  Savory glutamic acid and sulfur aromas likewise bring out great depth and complexity in sauces and other food combinations; therefore, this particular produce can even replace meat in flavoring vegan dishes.  4

Tomatoes originated in the west coast desserts of South America.  Extensive varieties existed in Mexico by the time Hernando Cortez and his 400 Spaniards discovered this land in 1519.  The tomato was incorporated in American (and later European) cookery in various ways.  At the time of Cortez’ arrival, Mexicans used thin shavings of this green, unripe fruit in many dishes; they also mixed ripe tomatoes with chillis in a sauce to top cooked beans.  Subsequently, the Spaniards in Europe readily adopted this fruit in their cuisine.  5

When Francisco Pizarro began his bloody attacks in Peru in 1532, this South American land, with all its royal Incan wealth, was eating mostly a vegetarian diet of maize, potatoes (including sweet and manioc potatoes), squash, beans, peanuts, avocados, chillis, and our beloved tomato.  6

Some time later, the Italians were adding it to broths and soups, as noted by the Quaker merchant Peter Collinson in 1742.  Tomato sauce for pasta followed several decades hence.  7

Britain lagged behind Italy, in accepting this item, due to their long-held mistaken viewpoint, which had originated on the Continent, connecting it with a deadly nightingshade, being it was of this same family.   Not until the 20th century did the English acquired a taste for tomatoes, particularly canned tomato soup.  8

North America was almost equally slow in receiving this fruit, probably due in part to these same European misconceptions; they considered it to be lacking in nourishment and substance, as well as a cause for gout.  9

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the U.S began what was to become a wide acceptance of tomatoes, primarily due to the strong influence from the great Italian immigration then.   Nevertheless, their first appearance here was when Thomas President Thomas Jefferson brought back seedlings from a diplomatic trip to Paris; there the Parisians had just accepted this “love apple”, believed to be an aphrodisiac; their acceptance directly resulted from the effect Italian cooking had on French troops during the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century (see Spicy Sausages with Tomatoes & Turnips, 2017/09/25).

It is interesting to note that our third president had an extensive garden of 170 varieties of fruits and 330 varieties of vegetables and herbs; his grand kitchen utilized most of this produce, even producing ketchup for our epicurean leader, who primarily chose a vegetarian diet.  Ketchup at this time, however, was a vinegar-based condiment made from such ingredients as walnuts and mushrooms, not tomatoes.  10

Be sure to access my other tomato recipes: Parmesan Dover Sole (2017/03/27), Rosemary Eggs (2017/08/21), and Spicy Sausage with Tomatoes and Turnips (2017/09/25).

References:

  1. Esther B. Aresty, The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964), p. 181.
  2. Ibid., pp. 182, 183, 193.
  3. Ibid., p. 193.
  4. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 329, 330.
  5. On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: The Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), p. 206.
  6. Ibid., p. 214.
  7. Ibid., p. 207.
  8. Ibid., p. 207.
  9. Ibid., p. 207.
  10. www.monticello.org/site/house-and-gardens/historic-gardens

ingredients for ropa vieja

Ropa Vieja (Omelette)  Yields: 2 servings.  Total prep time: 25 min.  Adapted from an 1824 Southern recipe found in Esther B. Aresty’s The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1964).

2 large firm ripe tomatoes, cut in eighths, removing seeds and juice

2/3 cup shredded leftover chicken, ham, or beef

4 large eggs, beaten lightly  (May use 3 duck eggs, which are bigger than chicken eggs; for egg history, see 2017/08/21.)

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp chopped parsley, optional

Salt, to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

  1. cooked tomatoes

    Spray the optional parsley with a safe, inexpensive, effective produce spray (mix 97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit 3 minutes: then, rinse well.

  2. Prep the above ingredients.  Cut the tomatoes in eighths, gently scoop out liquid and seeds with a spoon (it not necessary to peel the tomatoes), place in a bowl.  Shred and measure the meat, set aside.  Beat the eggs, only until whites and yolks are lightly blended.  Rinse optional parsley well and chop fine.
  3. Over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a non-stick skillet.  Mix in meat, heating for 1 minute; add tomatoes; cook for 6 minutes, or until mixture is hot and tomatoes are somewhat softened, stirring occasionally (see above photo).
  4. Reduce heat to med/low; sprinkle parsley over cooked tomatoes and meat; pour beaten eggs over this mixture, quickly distributing the meat and tomatoes evenly in eggs.
  5. finished product

    Salt and pepper generously before covering; cover and cook slowly, until eggs are set on top (see photo).

  6. When done, you may remove any loose pieces of skin from tomatoes that appear on top of omelette; fold it over; cut in half to serve two people.

Spicy Sausage with Tomatoes and Turnips

spicy sausage with tomatoes and turnips

Nothing pleases the palate as much as tomatoes fresh from the garden; how I love this time of year, as it explodes with their bounty; nevertheless, at times the question is what to do with them all.  When faced with this dilemma recently, I mixed this fruit with turnips and my favorite Aidells Spicy Mango with Jalapeno Chicken Sausages, both of which I had on hand; thus, this relatively quick and easy recipe evolved; enjoy.  (For another delicious Aidells sausage recipe, see Sausage with Zucchini and Eggplant, 2017/08/04.)

We think Italian cuisine, when tomatoes are mentioned, as we readily do with references to sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, potatoes, turkeys, and corn (in particular polenta); none of these foods, however, were present as part of this country’s heritage, until after the discovery of America.

The tomato, Lycopersicon esculentum, along with its relatives the potato, chilli, and tobacco, are part of the nighingshade family; tomatoes were domesticated first in Mexico, long before Christopher Columbus’ arrival here.

In 1519, twenty-seven years after Columbus’ first voyage, this fruit was officially discovered in Mayan towns by Spanish adventurer Hernando Cortes.  In 1527, conquistadors brought it back to Spain, along with the avocado and papaya.  Nearly three decades hence, in 1554, an Italian chronicle listed the first identifiable description of this yellow cherry tomato as pomo d’oro (golden apple).  By the end of the 16th century, both red and yellow tomatoes were present in European gardens, but only as exotic ornamental plants; there was a long period in which great suspicion was attached to them throughout this continent, due to their close resemblance to a deadly nightingshade.  Circumstances of the French Revolution, however, established them as an acceptable food.

Outside of America, Italy was first to heartily incorporate this fruit in its food preparation; inadvertently it became a leader in this adaptation.  The story unfolds with the French region Provence, whose cuisine was closely related to its Italian neighbor; these men from Provence formed the Marseillaise legion during the French Revolution.  Being richly exposed to Italian cooking, these soldiers had adopted the Italian “love apple”, as it was called, for it was considered an aphrodisiac.  In turn, this Marseillaise legion introduced this treasure to the Parisian troops, who took it back to their great city; thus, skepticism concerning tomatoes ceased in Paris; acceptance followed throughout Europe; and subsequently the whole world.

The week after next, I will post a Spanish recipe Ropa Vieja, from a 19th century American cook book; this is an omelette using our prized tomatoes and leftover meat; it doesn’t get any simpler, but oh so taste-provoking!

References:

Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa, A Taste of Ancient Rome (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1994), p. 11.

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p.329.

James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), pp. 86, 88, 96, 97.

Esther B. Aresty, The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964), pp. 129-130.

Spicy Sausage with Tomatoes and Turnips  Yields 4-6 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr.  Note: leftovers taste even better, as flavors meld.

5 1/2 tsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best; olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1 medium yellow onion, cut in even 1/8 inch slices

12 ounces Aidells Spicy Mango with Jalapeno Chicken Sausages  (May use any hot sausage of your choice, though this particular Aidells sausage is ideal; available at many supermarkets, including our local Winco and Fred Meyer-Kroger-stores.)

preparing turnips

1 pound turnips, cut in small 1/2 inch dice

1 1/4 pound fresh tomatoes, chopped

3/4 tsp dried oregano  (Trader Joe’s has an excellent organic dried oregano for $1.99!)

1 tsp dried basil  (Also available reasonably at Trader’s.)

1 tsp salt  (Real Salt is important for health; available in the nutrition center at local supermarket.)

1 tsp fresh ground pepper

cooking turnips

Avocado slices  (These are high in potassium and other powerful nutrients.)

  1. Spay vegetables with an effective, inexpensive spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide); let rest for 3 minutes; rinse really well.
  2. To caramelize onions, melt 1/2 teaspoon oil in a sauté pan over medium heat; when a piece of onion sizzles in pan, lower heat to medium/low; add rest of onions (do not crowd or they will sweat, taking much longer to caramelize). Stir every several minutes, until they began to change color; then, stir every minute, until dark brown; set aside.  Watch carefully while proceeding to next steps.
  3. In another frying pan, heat 2 teaspoon oil over medium heat; when small piece of sausage sizzles in pan, add the rest; cook quickly until browned, watching closely so as not to burn; place in a bowl, carefully saving juices in pan.
  4. Deglaze hot pan with 2 or more tablespoons of water (scrape fond, cooked-on juices, off bottom); set aside.
  5. Peel turnips, dice in small 1/2 inch cubes, place in a large bowl, see photo in list of ingredients.
  6. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in above pan, with juices, over medium heat. When a piece of turnip sizzles, stir in the rest, coating well with oils.  Cook covered until soft, about 10 minutes; stir every few minutes, deglazing pan each time you stir, by adding 2-4 tablespoon of water; this additional water will steam the turnips; see above photo.  (Be sure to cover while cooking.)
  7. cooking tomatoes

    Meanwhile chop tomatoes; set aside in a bowl.

  8. Mix tomatoes into soft turnips; sauté uncovered, over medium heat, until they are cooked down-about 15 minutes-at which time a chunky sauce will be formed (see photo). When tomatoes initially begin cooking, stir in oregano, basil, salt, and pepper.  (Be sure to cook uncovered.)
  9. Mix in sausage and onions after a somewhat-thick sauce has formed, having chunks of tomato in it; adjust seasonings (see photo).
  10. finished product

    Serve topped with avocado slices, for added health benefits.

Rosemary Eggs

rosemary eggs

I am creating recipes for an abundance of fresh rosemary which I am receiving right now; this delicious, simple egg receipt is among them; it reminds me that I eat like a queen.

Six years ago my young friend Noah began raising ducks, which he cherishes as if they were his children; each possesses its own personality and carefully chosen name.

Depending on the breed, ducks produce between 150-200 eggs a year, which come in all sorts of colors, varying mostly by genetic strain.  Different colored eggs, however, sometimes occur within the same breed.

Noah has seventeen of these domesticated aquatic birds, with only five of them producing presently; they only lay from early spring until the winter cold sets in; we are always sad when their production stops.

For the past half decade, I have been a beneficiary of this treasured delicacy; consequently my baking has excelled.  Pastry chefs prize these ovum of the family Anatidae over chicken eggs, for they contain less water, have firmer whites, and a higher fat content; this makes for moister cakes, breads, and cookies, all of which rise better, due to the additional leavening power found here.

The right balance in the interaction between eggs, flour, sugar, and fat in baked goods is important; your product will be dry if there is either too much or too little of the crucial egg.  In most recipes, “eggs” is a reference to large-sized chicken eggs, of which the equivalent of three is 2/3’s cup of duck eggs; therefore, I always measure these for an accurate agreement in any given recipe.  Note: whipping duck whites takes longer because of their firmness; thus, the recommendation is to beat them at room temperature, adding a little lemon juice; older eggs are preferable to fresh, as they aren’t as firm.

Duck eggs are up to 50% larger than those of their chicken cousins, with more yolk than white.  They are higher in protein and creamier, making great omelettes and quiches; crème brulee is unforgettable when made with these!  Nevertheless, my favorite way to eat them is over-easy, with the rich, smooth, orange yolk dripping all over the plate, which I sop up with my homemade toast; be sure to not overcook them, as this makes them rubbery.

Exponents of eggs propound that-among many benefits-they help prevent breast cancer, because of their high choline content; their abundance of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxathin fights mascular degeneration and cataracts; their beneficial blend of omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, B vitamins, and iodine feeds your brain, thus enhancing your mood.  They are an ideal, low-caloric, muscle-producing protein.

USDA has the same regulations for chicken, duck, quail, and ostrich eggs.  Their farmers and fans proclaim that duck eggs are less susceptible to diseases and parasites, making them safer, as well as healthier with a higher concentration of nutrients.  It is believed that their thick shells give them a longer shelf life than chicken eggs.

Eggs in general have gotten a bad rap in recent years; many feel they contribute to heart disease.  This is far from the truth, as they contain mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which actually lower heart disease risk.  Harvard health experts say healthy people can eat an egg a day; others believe you can eat even more.

These special duck eggs are popular in Asian cuisines, especially Chinese and Vietnamese, where they are frequently cured in brine; this draws out moisture and preserves them, altering their texture.  I fell in love with these pickled eggs while living in Tokyo!

My facile receipt blesses, for it enhances eggs with rosemary.  If possible, use these superior duck eggs, available at local farms and upscale grocers, where they range from $6 to $12 a dozen.  My young friend, however, sells his for the lesser price of $6.  (Noah resides near the Tualatin high school here in Oregon; go to Cynthia Powell link on my Facebook page.)

References:

www.rodalesorganiclife.com/food/chicken-eggs-vs-duck-eggs-which-is-healthier

www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/animals-and-wildlife/duck-eggs-411

https://www.tyrantfarms.com/5-things-you-didn’t-know-about-duck-eggs

https://pastrychefonline.com/2015/03/14/how-do-eggs-function-in-baking/

www.modernfarmer.com/2015/06/everything-you-need-to-know-about-duck-eggs/

chopping rosemary with a sharp knife

Rosemary Eggs  Yields: 1 serving.  (May multiply this, using a large non-stick pan.)  Total prep time: 15 min.

1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced  (1 1/3 tsp will be needed, if using duck eggs, which are considerably bigger than chicken eggs.)

1 small tomato, chopped

2 large chicken eggs  (May substitute duck eggs.)

1 tsp butter

Salt, to taste  (Real Salt is important for health reasons; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

  1. cooking liquid out of tomatoes

    Chop rosemary fine with a sharp knife; set aside (see above photo).

  2. Chop tomato and place in a dish.
  3. Beat eggs in a bowl, set aside.
  4. In a small non-stick omelette pan, heat butter over moderate/med heat; add rosemary; and cook for about 20 seconds.  Stir in tomato and cook for 2-3 minutes.  There will be juice from the tomatoes at first (see photo); cook until most of this liquid is evaporated.
  5. Pour in eggs, salt and pepper the top.  Gently fold in the firm egg on the bottom of pan (see photo); cook until egg is not runny any longer, but still quite moist.  Do not overcook, as this makes duck eggs, in particular, rubbery and dry.
  6. folding in cooked egg

    Serve hot, with homemade zucchini bread (2017/07/24), or better yet my rosemary bread toasted, which I will publish in several weeks.

Red Sauce for Pasta or Spaghetti Squash

simmering red sauce with splash shield

Gifts promote well-being in both the giver and receiver.  A beloved friend gave me a Valentine’s present of heart-shaped pasta; immediately I created this red sauce so I could enjoy my new treasure.  May we indulge in this excellent covering for either pasta or spaghetti squash; follow my easy instructions, if your dietary needs call for a vegetable rather than a starch with this piquant accompaniment.

My mother’s favorite language of love was that of gift giving.  She always blessed her children with bountiful offerings, from Easter to St. Patrick’s Day, and on every holiday in between; thus, I learned at an early age the power of contributions from the heart.  As a result I love to shower favor upon others, as well as graciously receive their inspired kindnesses.

This same act of generous sacrifice plays a lively part in my relationship with my Father in heaven, for I constantly seek to offer myself to him.  In doing so, I must slow down, move forward cautiously, relax, and especially trust the process; in this way, I proffer my life to my Maker moment by moment.  Results are a glorious existence; he has healed all my material matters!

I was specifically made to ardently search for the highest good in everything; this is especially true in my interacting with God.  However this process often brings tension, for resistance arises.

We see an explicit example of this opposition in our practice of eating: here polarity is experienced between a desire to quietly absorb pleasure, allowing gratitude in, and a friction arising out of our need to resolve storms present in our beings.  Taut emotions can result as we struggle to calm overactive minds, so we can enjoy our food.  This dichotomy in our bodies can be countered with prayer.  Great grace is needed, however, if heightened feelings cause us even to miss the opening blessing over our nutriments.

Grace, mercy, and thanksgiving are of the highest order.  When the above happens to me while eating, I immediately search my heart for honest moves of gratitude, which usually include my two favorite gifts from God: I have vibrant health (because I am able to eat sanely) and an immense supply of resources, including the highest quality of food.

These two endowments were not always present with me, for I knew excessive physical and financial poverty in the past.  At one point I had a 226 pound body, that couldn’t stop eating compulsively; now it is clothed better than Solomon in a size small.  All devouring of my economic supply has likewise ended.  An apt example of this is the recent demolition of my computer, at which juncture I stood, looked out my window at the river below, and spoke the word: all things come together for good for those that love God and are called according to his purpose.  Joyful faith rose in me, I was convinced that increase was on its way.

Indeed it was!  For after waiting patiently six weeks, I now publish my blog with the fastest of computers, an I-7 laptop equipped with a new wireless keyboard, mouse, printer, and monitor setup.  In addition to the outstanding quality of these, I have a fiber optic internet connection, instead of DSL, with 90 times more power and a monthly fee that is slightly less!

This unheard of upgrade, a sign of the Father’s immense love for us, was further outdone by the monetary provision for this loss.  First, great deals gave me $700 worth of equipment for $280; next, my Lord moved on the hearts of three separate parties to help with my needs.  He outdid himself, however, for the full amount was exceeded by half again as much, or $140 was left over in gift monies!  This is just one simple example of how my needs are always met today.  Our Father, who owns the cattle on a 1000 hills, indeed showers us with blessings, if we but believe.

He loves each and every one of us!  Right now, his heart is reaching out, to set us free from all wounds that hinder his glory from manifesting in our lives.  He is only about goodness, as my testimony proves.

Back to my friend who gave me the Valentine’s gift of heart-shaped pasta.  Let us learn the beauty of giving and receiving: what goes around comes around, for she is now anxiously awaiting my recipe for red sauce.  This beloved one initially obeyed God by giving me this gourmet food, which in turn equipped me to reach out with my cooking/writing ministry; hence, she is reaping the benefits of her offering with this post.

My prayer is that our gracious Father meet us today with all our particular needs, thus releasing his promised healing in us, who dare to receive it; then, we can go to his world proclaiming his outstanding goodness!

sweating onions

Simple Red Sauce for Pasta or Spaghetti Squash  Yields: about 2 quarts of sauce.  Total prep time: 1 hour/  active prep time: 30 minutes/  cooking time: 30 minutes.   (Spaghetti squash requires approximately 1 1/2 hr to bake.)

4 tbsp oil  (Coconut oil is best for flavor and quality here; avocado oil will also do; olive oil is carcinogenic, when heated to high temperatures.)

1 medium/large yellow onion, chopped

1 lb ground beef

1 lb romanesco or 3/4 lb mushrooms  (I like to use romanesco for variety’s sake; it is a green variant of cauliflower, which is available in the organic section at better supermarkets.)

3 tbsp butter, if using mushrooms

2-15 ounce cans of tomato sauce  (Hunt’s and Simple Truth, at our local Fred Meyer’s, make inexpensive organic tomato sauces.)

1-15 ounce can of water

2 tsp dried oregano  (Trader Joe’s carries a superb, organic dried oregano for $1.99!)

1 tbsp dried basil  (Also available inexpensively at Trader’s.)

1 tsp sugar  (I prefer organic; available at Trader’s and also in a more economical 10 lb bag at Costco.)

2 1/2 tsp salt, more to taste  (Real Salt is important for optimum health, available in nutrition section at local supermarket.)

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, more to taste

5 extra-large garlic cloves, minced  (3 cubes of Trader’s frozen garlic is better here.)

1/4 cup tomato paste  (Open a 6 ounce can and freeze individual 1/4 cup servings in small plastic bags, to be thawed as needed.)

Pasta or a 4-5 lb spaghetti squash  (This spaghetti squash yields 4-6 servings.)

Parmesan cheese, grated or shaved

  1. If using spaghetti squash, preheat oven to 375 degrees; pierce squash with a fork multiple times; place on side on foil-covered cookie sheet, and bake for approximately 1 1/2 hour, turning halfway through, at 3/4 hour.  Cool 10 minutes for handling, cut lengthwise, take out seeds, and scrape out “noodles” with a fork, when ready to serve.
  2. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a 3 quart saucepan over medium heat; add a small piece of onion; when it sizzles, add rest of onions and sweat (cook until translucent); see photo.
  3. Fry beef in sauté pan; salt and pepper generously before cooking; drain fat if there is a great deal of excess, when finished.  Proceed to next step, while meat is cooking.
  4. If using romanesco, clean and cut into very small pieces, add to translucent onions, and cook until somewhat soft, about 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the cooked beef to onion mixture, along with tomato sauce, water, herbs, sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, and garlic.  Blend well.  (Set aside sauté pan.)
  6. Cover saucepan with a splash shield, which is available at Bed, Bath, and Beyond (see top photo); bring to a boil over medium heat; reduce heat to medium/low and simmer for 30 minutes.  Go to next step.
  7. If you are using mushrooms instead of romanesco, clean them by brushing off dirt with a mushroom brush, cut into small chunks.  Heat butter in the sauté pan, cook mushrooms in hot butter for several minutes, until slightly limp, stirring constantly.  Add mushrooms and juices to sauce.
  8. Meanwhile if serving with pasta, boil a large pot of water, to which 2 tbsp oil (any kind will do) and 2 tsp salt are added.
  9. When sauce has simmered for 30 minutes, blend in tomato paste; cook for several minutes, or until thickened, stirring constantly.
  10. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  11. Boil pasta 10 minutes before serving, or if using spaghetti squash, split baked squash in half lengthwise, take out seeds, and scoop out noodle-like membrane with a fork.
  12. Pour hot sauce over noodles and top with Parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately.
  13. Note: may freeze small individual containers of leftover sauce, to be conveniently thawed for future use.  This is dynamite!

Parmesan Dover Sole

pan of baked Dover sole

Over a month ago I was celebrating a belated Christmas get-together with Carol, a friend of 31 years.  Our time in each other’s company is always rich; my desire for our merrymaking was that my food would do the honors, blessing our long-term bond.  This delicious dish answered this ambition beyond my expectations.  I share it here for your use with those close to you.

Friendship and food are both treasured gifts.  When we mix the two together, life explodes.  I always endeavor to meet my guests’ particular needs, thus making each dinner engagement unique and exceptional.

For instance Carol doesn’t like hors d’ouvres, as they were never served in her family of origin; for her they take away from an acute appetite for the main meal.  Consequently, we just partake in tea and conversation for the first half hour of our gathering.

This sensible person has a heightened awareness of taste.  She knows good food and eats with purpose, maximally enjoying each bite.  This takes concentration; my friend allows herself this luxury; thus, we spend much of our repast in silence, focusing on gastronomic pleasures.

This discipline was first displayed to me when I was 20 years old, while waiting on table in my father’s restaurant.  (Joy unspeakable happened to me then, as I served the public with our exceptional ailments.)  My About Page on this website notes that which is true for each of us, for it details the unfolding of my destiny, which has been happening throughout my entire life; I was born a food historian.  An excellent example of this is what I learned about the gift of hospitality, while serving the public in my youth; during that instructive time, a young couple showed me what a treasure stillness brings to eating.

Tourists peopled my family’s eatery in Glacier National Park and this unique pair was probably there on their honeymoon.  I initially approached their table with rousing emotion, my usual display of a genuine heartfelt welcome; my spirit, however, was quickly corrected.  This excitable enthusiasm, which was normally highly pleasing to those on holiday, was not appropriate in their presence, for there was a holy reverence about them.  My sensitive response was an immediate change of demeanor.  Throughout their lengthy feast, I watched them with awe, as they indulged in each other’s company and our kitchen’s delights, in their unparalleled way.

I intuitively knew how to respect them with a quiet spirit.  However, this was so foreign to me that I felt like I was walking on egg shells, but oh the glory of it all!

Since then, God has given me a friend with whom I can practice what these two taught me, forty odd years ago.  Carol and I uphold veracity in all of life’s dealings; thus, even our eating is veracious.  Because of the honesty in our souls, we engage in veneration to God as we consume food; therefore, you can see my need for a dish that would rise to our integrity, which I knew would be present at this gathering.

My heart’s desire was met in this Parmesan Dover Sole recipe; how facile and pleasing it is beyond words.

sauce cooking

Parmesan Dover Sole   Total prep time: 1 1/3 hr/  active prep time: 50 min/  baking time: 30 min.  Yields: 3-4 servings.  Note: you may double this recipe, leftovers are great, however fish only keeps for 3 days.

1/2 tsp oil  (Coconut oil is best here for flavor and quality; you may also use avocado oil; olive oil is carcinogenic, when heated to high temperatures.)

1 medium yellow onion, halved at the root and cut in even 1/8 inch slices

5 medium cloves garlic, or to taste, minced  (May substitute 2 cubes frozen garlic from Trader Joe’s for easy prep.)

1 lb Roma tomatoes, chopped small  (Organic is best; the organic Roma variety is not that much more expensive than regular tomatoes.)

1/2 tsp sugar, optional  (This brings out the flavor in the tomatoes.)

1/2 tsp salt  (Real Salt is so important for your body’s optimum health; this product is available in the health section at most leading grocery stores.)

1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

1/2 tsp Better Than Bouillon  (Either this chicken or vegetable flavored base will do; this product is available at most grocery stores.)

3/4 cup boiling water

Spray oil  (Pam coconut spray oil is ideal, available more reasonably in our local Winco brand.)

1 lb Dover sole fillets, or other type of whitefish, such as flounder  (Dover sole is a type of sole that has very thin fillets, which is ideal for absorbing sauces; see Thai Coconut/Lime Flounder, 2016/12/05.)

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shaved

Rice, steamed according to directions on package

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  (If you prepare dish ahead of time, do steps 2 through 9 before hand; then, begin preheating oven 1 hour before serving.)
  2. beginning stages of caramelization

    Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium/low heat; add onions and caramelize, by stirring every several minutes until color starts to form (see photo); then, stir every minute until dark brown (see photo below).  Do not crowd onions in pan, or they will sweat, taking much longer to cook.

  3. If using fresh garlic, chop and set aside.  Spray tomatoes with an inexpensive, effective vegetable spray, a mixture of 97% distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide; let sit for 3 minutes; rinse well.  Go to next step.
  4. Meantime dissolve Better Than Bouillon in the hot water, set aside.
  5. Chop tomatoes in small pieces and place in another frying pan; add garlic, bouillon mixture, sugar, salt, and pepper, stirring well.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; then, turn heat down to medium/low; simmer gently for about 20 minutes, or until a sauce is formed, with the tomatoes somewhat chunky (see above photo).  Adjust seasoning when sauce is complete. (I encourage you to read tips about cooking properly with garlic in Tomato/Feta Chicken, 2016/07/25.)
  6. finished product

    Begin steaming the  rice while tomatoes are cooking.  (If you are preparing this ahead of time, start this starch when you put cold fish dish in preheated oven, 50 minutes before serving.)

  7. For a single recipe, spray with oil a 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 x 3 inch pan, or 2 ½ quart baking dish; for a double recipe, use a 9 ½ x 13 x 2 inch pan.  Place fish fillets in bottom of pan.  Note: it is not necessary to wash pieces of fish or meat; only poultry carcasses, where blood is captured inside, need washing.
  8. Pour prepared sauce over raw fish and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, see top photo.  (Refrigerate fish dish, if making it ahead.)
  9. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 to 50 minutes-time varies if fish is cold from the refrigerator.  Fish is done when its center is opaque and it flakes with a fork.
  10. Enjoy this incredibly good dish!  Leftovers are also delicious.