A trip to the farmer’s market these days is as appetizing as it is inspiring.
August is a wonderful month to celebrate the fresh and flavourful tastes of the garden by incorporating what is available locally into a year-round favourite meal.
I went to the market yesterday to begin preparing for my dinner tonight.
I was looking at colours as much as taste to prepare my:
Summer Spaghetti Sauce
10 – 15 fresh ripe Roma tomatoes
I medium purple onion
I medium Spanish onion or sweet onion
1 larger shallot or two smaller
I red pepper
½ green pepper + ½ orange pepper (depending on what is available)
*it is as much about colour as it is taste
I medium carrot
I large stalk of celery
1 ¼ cup chopped or sliced fresh mushrooms
5 or 6 (or 7) cloves of garlic
At least 250 grams (1/2 lb) of lean ground beef, or pork, or Italian sausage.
(if you want to go vegetarian: 300 grams of shredded or chopped eggplant or zucchini (or a mix of both)
Two tablespoons fresh basil
Two tablespoons fresh oregano
1 ½ tablespoons of lemon pepper
A pinch (or two) of sea salt
Two pinches of nutmeg
I handful of chopped, fresh broad-leaf parsley or cilantro.
1 – 450gram package of dried spaghetti (or, my preference, spaghettini)
or, if possible, fresh whole wheat pasta
This recipe is flexible, can easily be be doubled for a larger meal or to ensure leftovers, but the above will give you three or four servings. The quantities of herbs and spices
are approximate and the measure often depends on my mood. Don’t be timid!
All ingredients can be adjusted any time of the year to suit your tastes or depending
on what is in the fridge.
eg. If not using fresh Roman tomatoes, use 1 or 2 cans of diced tomatoes.
In preparation, put your bag of tomatoes in the freezer overnight.
Also put half of the red pepper in the freezer with the tomatoes.
The next day, take the tomatoes and pepper out frozen and run lightly under warm water. The skin will easily peel off the vegetables. Put the peeled tomatoes and pepper in a medium saucepan, covered, over low heat. As you check occasionally, and see the vegetables soften as they warm, take a knife and chop as you go.
When tomatoes are soft and chopped, turn up the heat slightly and let them boil down and reduce.
At this point, toss one whole peeled clove of garlic in the pot.
With your finest grater or kitchen rasp, shred the carrot in with the tomatoes (this will sweeten and thicken the sauce – no need for tomato paste)
As the tomatoes continue reducing, prepare the remainder of your vegetables.
Chop onions as you wish. I prefer longer (not quite julienne) stands so they mix well in the pasta, but chunky works too.
Slice peppers in a similar fashion.
You can mince garlic with a sharp knife or use a garlic press.
Dice or chop or slice celery and shallots thinly (a shallot will brighten any meal; pretty much).
In a large frying pan, begin browning your meat. If going vegetarian, add a tablespoon of chopped fresh ginger and an additional teaspoon of pepper to zucchini and/or eggplant.
If using Italian sausage, remove the meat from the casing. When half cooked, drain most of the fat from the pan then add the onions, shallots, garlic, and peppers. Depending on the meat, you may need to slightly drain the mixture again before seasoning with lemon pepper (or black pepper) and half of the basil and oregano. Add a pinch or two of sea salt.
While this is cooking, add the other half of the basil and oregano to the pot of tomatoes, which should be thickening now.
When the onions are clear, add the diced or sliced or chopped mushrooms to the mix along with the celery, turn up the heat and give it some time to slightly brown the mushrooms.
When everything has cooked, turn off the heat on the frying pan until your tomatoes have reduced to a thick sauce then add the meat and mushroom mixture. Now add the nutmeg.
Allow time for the flavours to mix into each other. Depending on dinnertime, you can let it sit for a while. When you begin heating up, a half-hour before serving, add the fresh parsley.
When serving, keep an eye out for that lone garlic clove you put in the tomatoes at the start of the reduction process. Some people react when they see a whole glove of garlic in something; personally, I make sure it ends up on my plate.
Serve over the boiled pasta, topped with Parmesan cheese (freshly grated if possible)
Serve with a baguette and butter and a green, spinach, or Caesar salad.
Often, I’ll expand the recipe to ensure there are leftovers, which can be portioned with pasta and sauce and tucked in the freezer for nights when you don’t feel like cooking.
Enjoy the tastes of summer.
I know what I’m having for supper tonight.