Thursday, July 26, 2012

Penne in marinara sauce with spinach and mushroom

 I have been so engrossed in revamping my web page that I forget my meals. It is such a fantastic learning experience for me, that I feel so irritated to move away from my laptop to even cook. Now that mommy dearest has left, I hurry to make quick meals. That way, I can spend more time trying out nerdy stuff that can give my blog a new look .

So the easiest meal I could think of for this day was pasta. Hubby always wants veggies included in his meals. Hates carbohydrate-only meals. So, I think...................Penne with veggies in a marinara sauce. This he really  loves and so it is a win-win situation. Very easy for me to cook and meets his requirements too. It needs less prep time in the kitchen. 

To this day, I make a mean marinara sauce. Marinara is a sauce made from tomatoes, onions and herbs.
I learned to make good marinara sauce from my friend Katrin,  when we lived in Germany. She was gracious enough to let me in on 3 secrets to the most delicious and flavorful pasta sauce. As you read on you will know what they are.

It is essential to use a good, extra virgin olive oil to make a good sauce.
I have added spinach and mushrooms to my pasta sauce because I love the combination of these veggies with my pasta . Hmmmm! I just remembered that I could tell you something about mushrooms. There is a trick to know if your mushrooms are fresh or not.
Freshness of mushrooms can be seen and felt. They should look a healthy white, plump and firm to touch . But more than anything, mushrooms should always be closed at the bottom near the stalk. If they are open and show brown veins it means they are not very fresh. But, this doesn't mean that they are bad or unusable,  but, it is always better to buy closed mushrooms, which means freshness intact.

Now, here are the 3 little secrets to a good pasta sauce :
  1.  Add tomato paste to the sauce.
  2. Add a splash of good red wine.
  3.  Let the sauce simmer for atleast 25 mins, but at best 30-45 mins.
Some people as scared or wary of using wine and alcoholic beverages in their cooking. But fact is, that the alcohol evaporates in the cooking process and leaves only a hint of the wine back.
I have used ripe, country tomatoes in my sauce beause they disintegrate easily into the sauce while cooking.  
Ingredients: (serves 2)

  • Penne pasta - 2 cups (cooked as per package instructions)
  • Olive oil - 2 tbspns
  • Onions - 2 (sliced)
  • Garlic - 10 large cloves
  • Tomatoes -5-6 (cut in halves)
  • Sun-dried tomato paste - 2 tspns
  • Chili powder - 1/2 tspn
  • Sugar - 1 tspn
  • Salt  to taste
  • Water - 2 cups
  • Wine - 1/4 cup (optional)
  • Mushrooms - 5-6 (sliced)
  • Spinach - 1 small bunch (chopped)
  • Dried oregano -  1/2 tspn
  • Basil - 5-6 leaves (chopped)
  • Parmesan cheese - Optional ( I did not use it)
  • Heat olive oil in a pan and add garlic and onions. Saute till transparent.
  • Add tomatoes and sun-dried tomato paste. Saute well.
  • Add chili powder, salt and sugar. Saute for 2 mins.
  • Add water and wine and cover and simmer for at least 30 mins. 
  • Stir the sauce occasionally (about every 10 mins)
  • Add mushrooms. Cover and cook for 6-8 mins.
  • Add the spinach and cook for 2-3 mins
  • Finally, add the herbs and serve with the penne.
  • Grate a little parmesan cheese over the plate after serving. (optional)


Monday, July 16, 2012

Mom's sun-dried tomatoes

In the USA, I did not find the opportunity to make homemade sun-dried tomatoes, because, there just wasn't enough sun. Another reason was that we stayed in an apartment. So, I always had to opt for making oven-dried tomatoes

But now, in India, it is opportunities galore. The sun just shines and shines and shines. Especially, in my home-town. So, I asked mommy-dearest to sun-dry some tomatoes for me. And voila, beautiful sun-dried tomatoes.
Mom has come over to stay with us for a while and she has brought me some of these wonderful homemade sun-dried beauties. She had to dry about 10 kgs. of tomatoes to make me 1.5 kgs of dried tomatoes. She said that they dried in 4 days, so, just imagine the  heat.

Sun-dried tomatoes have an intense tomato flavor to them. It has that zing as well as a hint of natural sweetness.

 I chop these tomatoes and use then as toppings for pizza. That's  yummo! They work well in salads too.

I make a paste of these tomatoes to make my own pizza and pasta sauce.
To make sun-dried tomatoes.  All you need is some ripe tomatoes and salt. Cut each tomato into 5 slices and lay them out, in a single layer, on a large tray to dry. Sprinkle a dash of salt on them and cover with a net to keep dust and insects at bay. 4 days in the sun and the tomatoes are ready.

To make my tomato paste, I blend the sun-dried tomatoes in a grinder jar with a splash of hot water. Simple and yummy.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Plum Clafoutis for him

Watching the Masterchef series gets you so inspired sometimes, that last week saw the outcome of a wonderful plum clafoutis.  It was also baked in time for hubby dear's birthday.  He loves colorful desserts and this birthday, Plum clafoutis it was,  instead of the usual birthday cake.

Peak season for sweet plums was about 3 weeks ago and I kept postponing my clafoutis baking, because, each and every time we bought plums, they were gobbled up, leaving none for baking. So, finally when I realised that plum season was coming to an end, I bucked up and went full fledged to make my plum calfoutis.

The result........a really tart plum clafoutis because of tart plums :(  But luckily, it wasn't inedible. A tad  extra of powdered sugar dusted atop helped.

Lesson learned..... make hay while the sun shines.

 So, to reduce the tartness of the fruit I also caramelized them after pitting.

Since it was my first attempt at baking a clafoutis, I had my fair share of doubts. Is there less of flour?  Is there too much of milk? Is the batter too runny? But, all went well.( We women just worry for nothing :) The recipe was pretty easy. Easier than baking a cake.
When I saw my clafoutis all puffed up as it baked in the oven, I thought "wow!" Then, just like a souffle, it deflated when I took it out and let it rest . That was a disappointment and the next time I bake a clafoutis, I would definitely see if I can work on that .

He loved the dessert  and that was one more feather to my cap :)

So, here we come to the recipe part.

Ingredients : (Serves 4)
  • All purpose flour- 1/4 cup
  • Fine sugar- 1/4 cup
  • Eggs - 2
  • Butter - 1 tbspn (melted, cooled)
  • Milk- 1/2 cup
  • Cream- 1/4 cup
  • Medium plums- 10 (halved, stones removed )
  • Vanilla extract - 1/2 tspn
  • Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a 4 individual cups or a baking dish.
  • Combine flour, sugar and eggs in a bowl. Beat well to combine. Add butter, milk, cream and vanilla. Whisk to combine.
  • Place plums, cut side up, in prepared dish. Add flour mixture. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until just set. Let stand for 2 minutes. Dust with icing sugar. Serve immediately.


Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin