I went grocery shopping today, and it was awesome. Fresh green beans, green leaf lettuce, green onions, green green green! I just love a good produce section.
As I was drawing up my shopping list for today, I realized what an ingredient shopper I have become. This is in contrast to a recipe shopper, whose list is composed of items that will allow her to make a neat selection of recipes that she’s pre-selected and now plans to make in the immediate future. Oh, Recipe Shopper, I do envy you. Your life must be so organized and calm, with your well-stocked refrigerator and pantry and your pile of recipes, waiting like so many soldiers for you to call them into action.
I, on the other hand, have embraced a certain organized chaos in my cooking life. The organization is within my kitchen: I know how to curate a cooking space that works for me. (As an aside, can I just mention how much I love using the word “curate” to describe stocking one’s kitchen? I stole it from Molly Wizenberg’s last Bon Appetit article. Remember: good writers borrow, but great writers steal. Also, I have no modesty.) I know what I like to cook and what I like to eat when I’m not branching out and trying new recipes. My goal is to have enough of my food essentials on hand that a good meal is just a few minutes away—a little chopping, the judicious application of heat, maybe a sprinkle or two of seasonings, and hello, it’s dinner!
An example of a foodstuff that I’d always like to have on hand is tomato sauce. It’s such versatile, delicious stuff! Spaghetti with red sauce, baked eggs on toast with tomato sauce, pizza, even red sauce blended with some cooked onions and stock to make a soup—tomato sauce is endlessly useful, and I think it behooves every cook to have a recipe she likes.
This particular specimen is Spanish, at least in flavorings. The base is canned crushed tomatoes, and it’s seasoned with a boatload of garlic, sultry smoked paprika, fiery crushed red pepper, and a sprinkle of salt. The garlic is cooked briefly in olive oil, and then everything else is added to the pot, and you simmer for about 15 minutes to thicken the sauce and deepen the flavors. That’s it! It’s so easy and quick. And it’s delicious too—the Spanish profile of the seasonings makes this sauce an exciting departure from the usual Italian red sauce (not that there’s anything wrong with basil and company). It’s a little spicy, a little smoky, punchy with garlic, all of which contrast with the brightness of the tomatoes. It’s a study in contrasts, and it works like a charm.
They say that time allows herbal flavors to deepen, so I made this sauce tonight without any real plans to use it. But now that I’ve got a batch on hand, I’m pretty confident that I’ll find a home for it. Any suggestions, hungry reader?
Spicy Tomato Sauce with Spanish Flavors
From EatingWell magazine
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 15-oz. can crushed tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted (I used Muir Glen)
1/4 tsp. salt
1) In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook for a minute.
2) Add the spices, stir, and cook briefly in the garlicky oil. Add the tomatoes and salt, then adjust the heat to keep the sauce at a simmer or occasional bubble. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, uncovered, letting the sauce thicken. Use immediately, or allow it to cool and then refrigerate it. EatingWell says the sauce should keep for about a week.