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

 

Lemme Tell You About Lebanese

I’m a big fan of Mediterranean cooking. Probably because I’m a big fan of vegetables and easy preparation. I know from experience that most Italian cooking, although it tastes otherwise, derives from shorter recipes. The magic lies within good ingredients and not over-doing it. I think it’s safe to say the Main Street Inn follows that credo quite often. Don’t you agree?

With the end of Summer creeping in, gardens are exploding with ready to eat goods. As a result, a tenant in my building started leaving her produce overload near the building’s main entrance. Apparantly, 20 eggplants is too much for two people to handle? Their loss was certainly my gain after stumbling across this Lebanese recipe.

I have to be honest I was a little shocked to see multiple hits return from an “Eggplant + Eggs” Google search. Little scrolling, in fact none, was involved before entering the Taste of Beirut website. It was actually the second link on the page and the only reason I didn’t choose the first link is because there was a foreign word in the title I couldn’t pronounce. It’s funny how destiny works.

One of the first things I do when checking out a blog is examine the top banner or logo. I think, in a way, many of us use this technique throughout life. Have you ever chosen wine because the label was cute? Then you’re a label whore. Own it. So am I and everyone else in this country.

Needless to say, hook, line and sinker set in and I was convinced this recipe was the one. If I wasn’t over the edge just yet then the first line, “I love easy meals,” was a hard enough push to send me plummeting.

I used the Eggs with Eggplant recipe below but in smaller portions (only making 2) and I sprinkled a little panko bread crumbs (you could use Italian) to crunch things up a bit. Texture and color are key for a satisfying meal! There was roasted garlic left over from last week’s recipe so that took the place of regular cloves. I didn’t have pita bread but I crisped up a tortilla wrap with a little olive oil spray and oven time. Voila!

I will definitely return to this food blog to try more of the Lebanese recipes for home cooking. Stay tuned!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound of eggplant
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 cloves of garlic, mashed with a dash of salt
  • mint
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • pita bread

METHOD:

  • Cut  the eggplant in small dices and place on a sieve over a bowl. Sprinkle with salt.
  • Chop the onion.
  • Preheat the oven to 400F.
  • Mash the garlic with a dash of salt.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and when it is hot, add the onion.
  • Let the onion get golden, which will take about 15 minutes.
  • Drain the eggplant, squeeze the extra moisture with some paper towels and drop in the pot with the onions.
  • Brown the eggplants about 15 minutes on medium high heat.
  • Add the mashed garlic and saute with the eggplant and onion a few more minutes.
  • Form craters in the pan and drop in each one an egg (do so delicately )
  • Place the pan in the oven for about 8 minutes until the whites are firm.
  • Remove, sprinkle with mint, and serve with pita bread on the side. Sahteyn!
Until Next Time,
Voluntary Veggie Vixen

A Romantic Breakfast for One

I’m a rough on the outside hopeless romantic. You won’t hear me “awwing” over couples holding hands in the park or read a sappy love soaked status on my personal Facebook page. For me, the hopeless part has and always will be an old fashioned love longing. The kind where an elderly couple still grocery shops together or a boy uses handwritten letters to woo the apple of his eye.

One of my favorite authors once wrote “there are certain people you love who do something else; they define how you classify what love is supposed to feel like. These are the most important people in your life, and you’ll meet maybe four or five of these people over the span of 80 years. But there’s still one more tier to all this; there is always one person you love who becomes that definition….This is the person who unknowingly sets the template for what you will always love about other people…they’re often just the person you happen to meet the first time you really, really, want to love someone. But that person still wins. They win, and you lose. Because for the rest of your life, they will control how you feel about everyone else.”

Chuck Klosterman is an American pop-culture journalist who became a genius in my eyes after those insightful words from Killing Yourself to Live: 85% a True Story. While I’m sure he’s complimented for his writing techniques more often than not, it’s even more likely that nobody ever compared that paragraph to food before. How could I not?

I recently had a date with the “four” that classified what love feels like to me. One of my romantic guests was even THE ONE who became my ultimate definition of love. That’s right, they were all there and it wasn’t even awkward. I’m guessing that’s because they couldn’t talk.

Goat Cheese, Tomato, Egg and Garlic joined me at a recent breakfast. There were a few other foodie friends filling up empty chairs around us like wheat toast, basil, salt and pepper but our rendezvous was the main event. It proved uncomplicated, as we caught up on all old, but good times. One scent of the garlic whisked me back to the past, when my love for food was first defined. Their unique and bold flavors took turns talking but each got my undivided attention when needed.

You all know I didn’t really go out to eat or have a conversation with these ingredients but they are my true loves in many ways so when I decided to combine them for a quick and easy open faced breakfast sandwich, it was head over heels city and I was the mayor.

I began by roasting garlic, which you can find easy steps on doing so HERE. I don’t have a garlic roaster so aluminum foil and oil gets the job done. Feel free to pick your favorite bread but I’d go with something relatively grainy for texture. Make the slice nice and toasty, then spread the goat cheese while it’s still warm. Mix the roasted garlic with the goat cheese spread as you add it to the toast. Top with fresh, whole basil leaves, over medium eggs and thinly sliced tomatoes. Hold the salt through your entire cooking process and only sprinkle a little on the tomatoes when done, paired with fresh ground pepper.

Less for the roasted garlic, which you can skip or might have some made ahead of time, this entire breakfast takes a mere 10 minutes, if that, and is wholesome, too! Tomatoes are their ripest at this time of year and a perfect addition to any sandwich but you can make the quick, lite morning meal your way, with your favorites who define what foodie love is supposed to feel like. Once you’re ready to love and you find a personalized romantic combination of your own, it will control the way you feel about any future breakfast sandwiches for the rest of your life.

Until Next Time,

Garlic’s Girlfriend