Saturday, March 28, 2009

Calamari, Sausages & Tacos - 3/28/2009

One of my old roommates used to make tomato sauce and then freeze it for later use. I decided to give this a try to see how my own tomato sauce would come out.

San Marzano Tomatoes

These are San Marzano tomatoes. They are recommended by many different chefs and websites as some of the best canned tomatoes available. I found this recipe to use from the internet.
Garlicky Tomato Sauce

It involves using an entire head of garlic for what turns out to be about 3 cups of tomato sauce. It sounds like a lot (and it is), but the sauce turns out nicely balanced with garlicky tomato-ness. It is very easy to add whatever spices you want to it to alter this sauce to your own needs, which is exactly what I ended up doing a week later.

Frozen Squid

At the Cary Asian market, you can find all sorts of rare and wonderful ingredients. I found these frozen squid tubes and bought them immediately. These tubes are only available on occasion from normal grocery stores, so it would be great if I could find them at the Asian store year round.

Linguine Marinara con Calamari

I simply cut the tubes into medium-sized rings, cooked them slightly in some olive oil, lemon juice and thyme, then mixed them into the sauce and some cooked linguine. It has been quite some time since I last had pasta, and I forgot how filling it can be. This dish came out great. It's been a long time since my mom and I used to get calamari marinara from a restaurant called Angelo's around New Port Richey. The only thing missing is to find some tentacle pieces to go in there too.

I needed a new idea for my lunches this past week. Men's Health gave me a starting idea, but it took me some more thought and random inspiration to be able to bring it together.

Root Veggie Chips

Men's Health this past month gave a homemade alternative to potato chips: root vegetable chips. You simply take any root vegetable, slice it thinly, toss it with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake it at 400 degrees until they are crispy. I used beet, sweet potato, daikon, parsnip, and carrots. Admittedly, I should have baked everything separately as the smaller chips got over-done and the bigger chips got under-done, but the baking process eliminated many of the bitter flavors in the chips and gave them a slightly sweet flavor.

Chicken Sausage & Peppers

My step-mom makes sausage and peppers in a large pot of tomato broth and serves them with hoagie buns. I thought, what better accompaniment to chips than some sausage and peppers. Harris Teeter last week had store-made sweet Italian chicken sausage, perfect because it is healthier and not spicy. I braised the sausages by cooking them in a pot until they were browned, then added some chicken stock and tomato paste to allow them to finish cooking. Meanwhile, I started cooking three sliced onions and three sliced bell peppers (one orange, one red and one green) in a large saucepan over medium heat. My goal was not to brown them, but to caramelize them all together. Once they had started cooking down, I added some salt, pepper, garlic, and tomato paste. Slowly, the onions and peppers cooked down to an aromatic mixture, at which point I figured they were done. I half-sliced a French roll (softer than an Italian one, apparently), added a sausage to it and topped it with all of the onions and peppers. I'm not normally a bell pepper person. I've been trying to get used to their flavor for a while, but this dish is nearly devoid of their overt flavors. The onions and peppers meld in flavor that is enhanced by the garlic to form a warm oniony sweetness that lifts up the flavors of the chicken sausage. This all heated up very nicely for lunch all this week.

Crispy Black Bean Tacos

Last and certainly not least are these atypical tacos. The recipe for these tacos came from Bon Appetit magazine. They are easy to make, relatively quick and vegetarian. I am by no means vegetarian (see previous posts for evidence), but every once in a while, it's nice to break out of the mold. After allowing a flour tortilla (the recipe calls for corn but I prefer flour) to brown slightly in olive oil, you add a black bean-cumin mash. Then you fold the taco in half. With some coaxing it will stay closed of its own accord. Then brown each side in the saucepan. Once it is cooked, remove it from the skillet, then sprinkle in some feta cheese and a slaw made from cabbage, cilantro, green onion, lime juice, and olive oil. The flavors of this taco explode with tanginess, sharp saltiness and warmth(ness). Who knows, maybe you could use these to spice up your next taco night.

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