Take Tomato Traditions Home for Your Own

Traditions are a beautiful thing. There are some people who frown upon the word “traditional,” maybe because they think it means boring, repetitive or the norm but there is so much more to a tradition than hanging on to a habitual event.

We have our sporting events, picnics and annual camping retreats but they always seem to change slightly each year. Sometimes a group of people fall out of touch. Maybe the original location is no longer used. In our family, however, there is one tradition that’s always the same; sauce making.

Of course some things have evolved for the best like technology and canning equipment, but the most important aspects are still the same. The tomatoes still fill up an enormous blue tarp early in the morning. They get picked carefully and scrubbed by hand in a large, water filled tub. Best of all, the camaraderie remains tight knit and familiar. It’s a lengthy, all day event coordinated by the one and only, Pam, The Innkeeper.

By the end, everyone is exhausted. The crowd varies slightly each year but the usual suspects tend to make an appearance at one point or another. Even if they can’t participate in the entire production, they pitch in when needed. Special guests will even show up from time to time, like my Nonno to dictate the tradition he started long ago or an ancient family friend who “can’t get sauce like this anywhere else.”

While we love the company and wouldn’t trade it for the world, the fact of the matter is, it’s easy to perform the process on your own. Us Corrado’s only use the large and in charge equipment because we prepare for years of feeding many mouths. We’re Italian. It’s a way of life. Normal eaters? They could use their regular kitchen inventory to complete a decent amount of jars.

Many directions you’ll find these days include various ingredients but Mama C and the Tomato Gang tend to keep it simple with tomatoes and salt. This does mean, however, that when you prepare the sauce for your meal of choice, it must be done in a certain way for maximum enjoyment (see steps for that below).

But maybe you don’t want to do it like Pam. If that’s the case, here are a few sites that could help you start your own canning tradition. Pam just finished up for the year but if you think an in-person tutorial would be best, don’t hesitate to join in for the 2013 season, with a warning of course, and ready to get your hands dirty!

Sites for Canning

1. Simply Canning

2. Heavenly Homemakers

3. Local Lemons

4. Ball Canning

5. Stick a Fork in It

Cooking Pam’s Tomato Sauce

1. Add a thin layer of oil to the bottom of your sauce pan

2. Bring to a low heat

3. Drop in chopped garlic and fresh basil (amounts vary with preference)

4.  Sear your choice of meat – best with sausage, pork, or homemade meatballs (if pre-cooked, no need to sear pre-sauce)

5. Add sauce to the pan and let slowly cook for hours (if time allows)

6. Sauce should thicken slightly or continue cooking until seared meat is fully cooked

 

Until Next Time,

Too Tradit to Quit

 

More Zucchini Madness

As you may recall, I received a donation from my mother a little over a week ago. Generous offerings from her aren’t normal sized to begin with but this one was, without a doubt, the most gargantuan gift of all. Left with a zucchini the size of a small (wait) big child, I had no choice but to chop, dice, slice, bake, broil, steam, and saute. Am I forgetting something? Well, only the most delicious technique of all; FRIED.

 

 

Maybe it’s not the healthiest of choices but my most recent (and possibly most delicious) zucchini exploration involved eggs, flour, olive oil and a good ‘ol frying session. There were a few other ingredients I decided to throw in there in order to spruce things up, like Panko Bread Crumbs for a crisp factor, but I didn’t stray too far from Smitten Kitchen’s Zucchini Fritters recipe, a very favorite food blog of mine. As usual, Smitten’s photos are slightly more appealing than my own so try not to stare too long.

Although I always encourage using your own techniques and avoiding stress by skipping ingredients that you don’t have in stock, it’s very crucial to ring out the zucchini. If there is too much water in the mixture, the zucchini won’t fry correctly and it especially won’t last for leftovers. A major perk of this recipe is the “do ahead” factor so it’d be a shame if they didn’t keep. You can store them chilled in the fridge for the better part of a week and/or frozen in a well-sealed package for months. When you’re ready to use them, simply spread them out on a tray in a 325 degree oven until they’re hot and crisp again.

Smitten Kitchen suggests whipping up a sour cream based dip as the topping but, as an Italian, I say nothing goes better than a good marinara (homemade of course). My European roots also shined through when I decided to sprinkle the just finished fritters with parmesan cheese. Give it a try and you won’t regret it. I think my Nonna would have to agree, too.

Zucchini Fritters

1 pound (about 2 medium) zucchini
1 teaspoon coarse or Kosher salt, plus extra to taste
2 scallions, split lengthwise and sliced thin
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Olive or another oil of your choice, for frying

Trim ends off zucchini and grate them using the shredding blade of a food processor.

In a large bowl, toss zucchini with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and set aside for 10 minutes.

Wring out the zucchini in one of the following ways: pressing it against the holes of a colander with a wooden spoon to extract the water, squeezing out small handfuls at a time, or wrapping it up in a clean dishtowel or piece of cheese cloth and wringing away.

Return deflated mass of zucchini shreds to bowl and add a little more salt to taste.

Stir in scallions (I used a regular sweet onion here), egg and some freshly ground black pepper.

In a tiny dish, stir together flour and baking powder, then stir the mixture into the zucchini batter.

In a large heavy skillet heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.

Drop small bunches of the zucchini mixture onto the skillet a few at a time and lightly nudge them flat with the back of your spatula.

Cook the fritters over moderately high heat until the edges underneath are golden, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Flip the fritters and fry them on the other side until browned underneath again, about 2 to 3 minutes more.

Drain briefly on paper towels then transfer to baking sheet and then into the warm oven until needed.

Repeat process, keeping the pan well-oiled, with remaining batter.

 

Until Next Time,

Mandated Zucchini Master

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Army Called, They Can’t Make It…Again

Sundays are often family dinner days. Whether planned or not, we tend to end up around the same table, over-eating the same meal. However, no matter how much the Corrado’s over-eat, there are always leftovers. Apparently “the Army” calls every time and cancels at the last minute, which my mother never seems too upset about because that means she’ll just send home stuff with me. You probably think I’m crazy to attempt and turn the delicious meals down but occasionally I do. It’s just in hope of preparing my own food for once. An independent thing. Simply put, if the crutch is constantly there, you’ll use it.

Even if I’m not there for a meal and just pop in to say hi she still sends unprepared goods in my direction. I’ll understand when I’m a mother but for now I’m convinced my mom thinks there are no farmer’s markets near me and…that I’m jobless, homeless and poor. I can honestly say I haven’t been grocery shopping in months! While I had full intentions of hitting the market this week, sure enough, Sunday rolled around and Pam hit me with a monster. Literally, a monster zucchini (see photo) from the Corrado garden behind our farmhouse was involved. Thankfully, she also sent a dozen eggs freshly laid by the pet chickens (yes, they all have names).

 

I had no choice but to craft the gigantic green goodie into meals, left and right. Since my favorite meal has always been breakfast, I started there. A few minutes of recipe sifting left me undecided so I just want back to the basics. I have to say that I was slightly inspired by the Don’t Eat Crap blog because 1) the title caught my attention (short, sweet, to the point) and 2) it did sound rather delicious.

My mother wasn’t completely incorrect about that “me being poor thing” and I still haven’t brought myself to shell out some decent dough for a top notch cast iron skillet. Instead, I manipulated the recipe here and there, swapping chicken sausage for Papa C’s self butchered pork links, using different cheese, leaving out the green pepper (they aren’t my favorite veg) and transferring from a pan to a baking dish to finish it all off. As you already know, I rarely follow ingredients so I would go with Don’t Eat Crap’s measurements if you’re into that sort of thing.

Also, after scanning through the blog post, I noticed she had potatoes on the side. I love potatoes. I love them so much, I just put them right in with the rest of the fixins’. To mix things up a bit and keep this different from a quiche or a frittata, I layered the different ingredients, meat first, then eggs/veggies and then cheese. I also thought this would make it visually appealing but, I’m not going to lie, it kind of broke apart once I set it on the plate anyway but mainly because I didn’t let it cool. My second (and maybe third) piece stuck together pretty well. Even so, lesson learned? You want pretty food? Follow recipes. Like this one.

Chicken Zucchini Breakfast Skillet

Serves: 6-8

  • 2 Artisan chicken sausages, diced
  • 1 small green pepper, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 c. zucchini, diced
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 c. fat free mozzarella
  • 1/4 c. shredded Parmesan
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp milk

 

Heat oil in cast iron skillet. Once hot, add onion, pepper, garlic and zucchini and cook until soft.

In a small bowl, crack 6 eggs and beat lightly. Add milk and cheeses to egg mixture. Pour egg mixture into skillet and spread veggies out equally. Turn broiler on. Top skillet with diced chicken sausages.

Broil until golden and eggs are set. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes until eggs are set.

MSI NOTE : If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, cook everything before hand and broil in a baking dish.

While I’m very flexible with how your variation of this delightful breakfast runs, one thing I ABSOLUTELY recommend is let the cheese crisp on top when broiling. It’s a perfect textured cherry for on top of this egg sundae. Now go ahead and give this zucchini adventure a try and let me know how it turns out. Share pics on our Facebook!

If you’re looking for more ideas, check out this interesting article from a Town Dish site AND return to the Pillow Talk Blog as we may attempt to tackle another zucchini infused recipe since Pam’s enormous pity gift could last a while.

 

Until Next Time,

Donation Resistant Daughter