A Spark of Summer...

Friday, January 15, 2010

My deepest apologies for the extended break. No -- I didn't fall off a cliff (fat chance people). It's just been -- you know -- one of those "weeks."

Of course -- the death of my Uncle caught me a little off-guard. Although we all knew that this would happen someday (the man was nearly 92 after all!) -- we weren't really prepared for his passing. Nobody is truly prepared for this type of event. There is no "good time" to leave this Earth.

But then -- when a 41-year old co-worker of mine suddenly passed away some four days later -- well that made things just a little bit tougher. 41-year old men aren't supposed to die of heart attacks. It's just not supposed to happen to people like Will -- who was in better shape than most.

It's just been the type of week that in the big scheme of things -- that if you're five minutes late to work? That's really not a problem. Other problems are a little more serious. There are other things to worry about rather than the clock on the wall.

So -- this posting is a little late. I was going to brag to the world about this wonderful dish to your immediate right -- and then my Uncle died. That was the end of that plan. But the taste of this meal lingers on. And if you're guessing that it just might involve some fresh ingredients from our North Natomas suburban farm -- winner, winner -- chicken dinner!!!

This my fine friends -- is my Spark of Summer. The zest of our North Natomas heirloom tomato and fresh-herb harvest. Yes -- the 2009 tomato growing season is but a distant memory for many now -- but not for us.

We're enjoying the "fruits" of our labor this winter.

The sauce creation above is actually part of a deep-dish pizza recipe that Venus and I have modified somewhat to fit about any sauce need that we have. We found this recipe some years ago in the food section of the Sacoftomatoes Bee -- and the person who contributed this recipe promised it would create a deep dish pizza "just like Zelda's."

Now -- if you've never tried Zelda's before -- where on God's Green Earth have you been? People drive for hours to reach Zelda's front door -- and a taste of that Chicago-style deep-dish pizza-pie. It's the stuff of legend. And -- although Zelda is no longer with us -- the family has managed to keep the place humming. Short and sweet? Zelda's still turns out one mean pizza-pie.

We've made this recipe a couple of times -- and I must admit -- it's a pretty darn good imitation. But -- don't be fooled. NOTHING is like Zelda's. NOTHING.

The sauce is clearly the secret to this pizza recipe -- which is why we modified it to fit other uses. In this case? This wonderful tomato sauce made with canned heirloom tomatoes and canned heirloom tomato sauce right from out backyard went into a pasta recipe that also featured a U-shaped rope of Turkey Kielbasa cut into bite sized chunks.

Now folks -- the finished creation to your left? That's called a dish of heaven. And that's the nice thing about canned heirloom tomatoes. If you think that you lose that special taste of an heirloom when you can it for future uses -- think again. That's the wonderful thing about canning tomatoes from the backyard. They taste like you picked them five minutes ago.

Not to knock our big tomato processors in town -- no -- not at all. I don't turn up my nose at a can of Hunt's Tomato Sauce. Nor do I push away a can of S&W Brand canned tomatoes. They have their uses. BUT -- the stuff in those cans simply cannot compare with a one-quart jar of canned heirloom tomatoes from the backyard -- and a pint of heirloom tomato sauce.

You can tell the moment you pry off the lid of any one-quart or one-pint jar. That marvelous smell of summer ripened tomatoes fills the kitchen air. The vines that produced those wonderful heirlooms are long dead and gone -- but the zest remains.

And that's the real advantage to canning your summer produce. Does it take time? Of course! Will you waste an afternoon? More than one to be sure. Is it worth the time, work, effort and mess? Without a doubt, yes, yes, yes and yes!

But the real "proof in the pudding" so to speak doesn't come until much later. Imagine that you've just arrived home from work on a cold January day. It's not just cold -- it's bitter cold. It's not just bitter cold -- a heavy rain is falling. It's dank. It's dreary. It's depressing.

And then -- all it takes to cure a case of the "Winter Blahs" is a can of fresh heirloom tomatoes from the backyard. That smell is back. That taste returns. Suddenly -- it's not so dank and dreary anymore. It's a garden fresh dinner right in the middle of winter.

Just in case you're interested -- I've put the sauce recipe below. You can mix it with Turkey Kielbasa like we did -- but it works just as well with cut up chicken, tofu (blech!) or no meat at all.

You see -- with this creation -- it's all about "the sauce."

The sauce is good.

Just Like Zelda's Pizza Sauce (or sauce for any pasta meal)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic (we usually crush it -- plus add more)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil (you can also used dried basil flakes)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano (you can also use dried oregano flakes)
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
14 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, coarsely crushed
1 tablespoon dry red wine
1 teaspoon sugar

Directions: In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add herbs, seeds, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring for 30-seconds. Add tomatoes, wine and sugar and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occassionally, until thickened, 20-30 minutes.

Bills Note: Since Venus and I both like spicy foods? We usually double up on the spice ingredients. And -- if you're forced to open a full bottle of red wine to get the sauce just right -- don't despair! It just gives you something to sip on while the sauce is cooking!

1 comment:

Garry said...


got a blog question - posting multiple pix in a blog post. how do you format yours - do you type the entire blog and then upload pix? or do how. seems when i have more than i picture i cant control placement and my wording is wierdly wrapped (reference last post on my blog). any help would be handy.