Worms and Flowers

Easy as Tomato Sauce

Posted in Recipes by Lzyjo on August 31, 2009

A lot of things in the kitchen come with hype, whether is a grilled sandwich called a panini  or gourmands who brag that they would never touch anything other than homemade tomato sauce. In most cases the hype, is exactly that, something that dissolves when the truth is discovered. That is exactly why I am posting today, to dispel myths that tomato sauce is hard to make.  The one truth about homemade tomato sauce is that is IS more intensely flavored and overall a different animal that store bought- sauce.

There are two simple methods for making tomato sauce, one is best suited for making it “by hand” and the other using a food mill.

Begin by finding as many tomatoes as possible. To make one quart of  sauce it takes approximately 5 pounds of tomatoes.

Equipment Free Pasta Sauce

Preparation

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Add rinsed tomatoes, let the water come back to a boil and cook for approximately five minutes.

The skins of the tomatoes should be just splitting open. Cook too quickly and the skin will still be attached, cook too long and pulp will exit the cracks in the skin.

Cool tomatoes under running water or in an ice bath.

Peel the blanched tomatoes. the skin should come off in one piece (hopefully)

After your tomatoes are peeled you can take a break and let them rest overnight and a lot of the water will drain off, or if you’re feeling energetic, proceeded with the sauce. Letting the tomatoes drain on their own, makes for a thicker finished product, requiring less cooking time

Sauce

Chop all of the tomatoes and 1 onion. (Use onions and other seasonings sparingly as they become stronger during long-term storage.

Add additional flavorings if desired, bell peppers, hot peppers, roasted peppers, etc.,

I also add a little parsley, oregano, and basil.

Bring the mixture to a boil.

After40 minutes the tomatoes should smell cooked and they should be at a sauce like consistency.

Season with salt and sugar to taste. The amount required depends on the quantity and flavor of the tomatoes used, which varies every time.

I used 2 tsps of Salt and 1/4 C brown sugar.  1 tsp Salt and 2 TBSP of Brown Sugar should be suitable for smaller batches. I found brown sugar to be most pleasant in the sauce than white. The richer molasses flavor blends much more easily than the blunt sugariness of granulated sugar.

Thicken with a flour/water slurry if necessary. Ideally the tomato sauce should coat the spoon.

Now your tomato sauce is done, how easy was that! Give it a good taste, notice how it taste like tomatoes, notice how you can taste the freshness and nuance of every ingredient in the sauce. Amazing! Package and enjoy!

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If you happened to have a food mill/squeezo, etc., that’s great because they can make massive quantities of sauce very quickly. Chop tomatoes with their skins on and follow the “Sauce” section of the recipe, after 40 minutes of cooking, run the mixture through the food mill. If you wish, reserve some of the sauce to make it chunky, or run it all through the food mill for a smooth puree.

Removing the skins, either through a food mill or by blanching, is important because of their bitter taste and leathery texture.

On the right is my BST tomato sauce mill. It is one of the most simple food mills, a crank, a bladed wheel and a fine mesh screen and is not changeable, unlike Squeezos. It also has a large hopper than can be filled to the brim.

For $10-$15 on eBay it’s so worth it! Squeezos are SO expensive brand new. I definately recommend checking on eBay you never know when someone wants to get rid of a food mill they never use!

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Many Words about Knives

Posted in Kitchen by Lzyjo on August 28, 2009

Last Sunday I was diligently working in the studio, finishing up eight pillow covers for my MIL. Four for gifts and the others she bought, anyway, I just love NPR’s fabulously funny Sunday programming. Last Sunday’s Splendid Table featured an interview with domestic goddess Nigella Lawson, who shared several delicious ways to enjoy in season fruits and even make jam, her recipe “Handsfree Raspberry jam” is featured on the Splendid Table website.

Next, weekly Splendid Table guests and food/travel writers Jane and Michael Stern shared tales from their travels sampling Kansas City B-B-Q. I really had no idea, but Kansas City is a likely home as any for B-B-Q. Kansas City barbecue is known for it’s spicy orange sauce, colored by tomatoes. The sauce in Kansas City not as sweet as other types of BBQ sauce. According to Jane and Michael the holy grail of BBQ in Kansas City is L.C.’s their description leaves nothing to the imagination, a small restaurant, with TVs blaring, and rolls of paper towels on every bare-top table. According to the experts don’t bother with any of the side dishes what you want is the barbecued meats, particularly a sampling of burnt ends, the charred ends of the beef briskets. Almost enough to make a vegetarian’s mouth water….almost.

Next up in the show was Chard Ward, author of An Edge in the Kitchen: The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives — How to Buy Them, Keep Them Razor Sharp, and Use Them Like a Pro.An Edge in the Kitchen: The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives — How to Buy Them, Keep Them Razor Sharp, and Use Them Like a Pro Knives

An Edge in the Kitchen: The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives -- How to Buy Them, Keep Them Razor Sharp, and Use Them Like a Pro

Knives always put me on edge, no pun intended. They are often costly, and require a certain respect and caution to be used safely. As the host Lynne Rossetto Kasper introduced the knife man my heart filled with dread, I felt like he was going to say, much to my chagrin, that all the knives I had were crap and that had no clue what I was doing when I used them. Fortunately, that is not at all what he said.

The knife man clearly and concisely explained the misconceptions and truths about knives. One of the first things he said what that most of out preconceptions about knives are comparable to medieval medicine. He debunked many myths about pricey forged cutlery, once a gold standard. According to the knife man, in this day and age it is unnecessary to buy unaffordable hand forged knives. I was positively excited when the knife of all knives he recommended was the very Photobucketknife I own!!!!! According to the knife man the very best knife for the value is by Fibrox by Victorinox/Forshner, (the Swiss Army knife company) A chef’s knife from this line costs about $20-$30 . They are stamped from a sheet of steel, making them cheaper to produce, but according to the knife man, the steel is high quality and holds an edge very well.
When it comes to keeping those knives sharp and in tip-top shape the knife man really broke it down. Electric knife sharpeners remove metal at an alarming rate, they should be used for emergencies, like if a knife has been severely dulled (Knife man used the example of a child dulling a knife on the sidewalk!) For maintenance a knife steel should be used before and after use. A knife steel does not actually sharpen the blade, but smooths out microscopic bends in the edge.
I have watched this “How to Use a Knife Steel” video on About.com numerous times just to make sure my technique is proper. I love the way this chef explains the process, the folded paper example is wonderful! Do check it out.
I bought most of my Victorinoxes from Cutlery and More they have a fabulous selection of Victorinox. The knife man says all you need is a chef’s knife, a few paring knives, and a serrated bread knife and he says you’ll be happier with those than “blockheads,” people who buy a set of knives in a block with a pear of shears for 39.99., or something, you get the point.
PhotobucketOn the left are my Victorinox parking knives, all about $4.95 each. A sheep’s foot paring knife( in the front) 3.25 inch paring knife, serrated knife, and two four inch paring knives. All, except the serrated, I keep sharp with the steel.
Most jobs in the kitchen are easily accomplished with these tools. Not to make an example from a mistake, but DH used the paring knives to chop green chilies on a regular kitchen plate with slightly cupped edges. Needless to say, he cut him self due to this unfortunate cutting arrangement. I took over cutting, after we covered DH’s cut, and immediately noticed how dangerous it was cutting on a plate. By all means use a flat cutting board surface, I don’t nag, but I really wanted to say, “what, are you trying to do? Chop you hand off, or make the knives really dull, cutting on this plate!!!” But I didn’t.

Have you noticed people using knives in TV shows? Often they look pouty as they angrily pound a chefs knife on the cutting board, using it like an axe, gosh, that makes are horrible noise. Loud walloping of the knife is not how this utensil was meant to be used. If you look at the photo on the right you can see how the tip of Photobucketthe knife does not touch the cutting board. The point of the knife, an inch or two below the tip should be used like a pivot point. It is unnecessary and quite dangerous to lift the knife all the way off the cutting surface. Depending on the diameter of the item to be cut, move it further to toward the handle for a larger cutting angle. Always try to use the natural curved shaped of the blade to your advantage, rocking as you chop.

After your are done chopping, put the knife in a safe place where it is out of the way. I know that is common sense, but an ounce of prevention,… well, you know…I like to wash the knife as soon as I am done using it, if not I put it out of the way on the side of the sink. Never in the sink. I always take any knives out of the sink before I start doing dishes. I know this because I HAVE cut myself reaching into murky dish water.

After the knife is clean, steel it a few times on each side of the blade, wipe with a clean towel and put your baby in the drawer. With proper care your knives can stay sharp for a lifetime and with respect you will always chop safely.

Friday Garden Update #10

Posted in Friday Garden Update by Lzyjo on August 21, 2009

Wow, it’s been about a month since the last garden update. A lot has happened in that time. The peppers are still producing wildly. The tomatoes are dying a long slow death. The zucchinis and gone and the yellowing squash are slowing down. The corn, which failed miserably, is being removed from the garden.

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Things for fall are already being planted. A few cauliflower transplants, some lettuce starts, leek starts, and a few things by seed, peas, spinach, and carrots.

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Cucumber. Hoping to save seed. It’s hard to tell in a photograph and gargantuan size of this cucumber.

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A reminder to stake those pepper plants.

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Here is a day’s typical harvest, a ton of peppers of all kinds. A few squash and a few tomatoes.

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I still have not tasted a Charentais, as the third one also split before ripening.

The tomatoes are really on their last leg. I have already pulled out three of my seven plants. I fear it’s too late for any preventative measures. Luckily, although the plants are dying, it did not effect the yields.

My biggest failure of the season was the corn, it wasted a ton of space and it sucked, in a word.  Oddly enough the corn that performed best for me, this year, was a hybrid, though I’d  rather believe it was timing that caused that corn to escape the evil corn ear worm. Arg.

Some good news.  Minus expenses we’re over $100 in the black!!! Woohooo!!!

Have a great weekend everyone and enjoy those unheard of temperatures in the 70s!

Formosa Lily and Poor Woman’s Time-Lapse

Posted in Lillies by Lzyjo on August 20, 2009

The Formosa lily is a 6-8 foot tall species lily, originally discovered in Taiwan, fka, Formosa, growing near the island’s highest peak.

Yushan Peak Photo: From Wikipedia User 'Kailing3' Creative Commons License Attribution


This Tainwanese native is hardy to Zone 5- Zone 10., but requires refrigeration in Zone 9 and 10 to simulate winter. It is also known as August Lily after its typical flowering time. In northern climates the Formosa Lily may flower as late as October.

It’s a little difficult to see in the photos, but there is a faint blush of reddish purple on the back of the petals (or are they sepals?) The flowers have a slight sweet fragrance, nothing to write home about even with nostrils flared inches away from the source. The overall look of the white outward facing flowers is very similar to Easter lilies.

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These photos were taken at 24 and 48 hour intervals approximately. ; )

It took about one month and one week from first bud sighting to blooms opening.

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This lily, more so than other species lilies, is easy to grow from seed. I started this one last spring (’08) and now approximately 18-months later it has flowered for the first time at about waist height. I bought the seeds for a few species lilies for $2.00 per pack of ten seeds from BuggyCrazy. She doesn’t have Formosa Lily seeds in stock right now, but I can attest that everything I bought was fresh and germinated quickly.