Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Slightly Unusual Pasta Sauce

Being on a rather meager budget these days, I usually do not give too much thought into making elaborate meals with 50 different ingredients.  More often than not, I buy the same items over and over again trying to figure out new ways to combine them.  Spinach, arugula, cherry tomatoes, shallots, and some sort of cheese are regulars in my shopping basket.  

So when it came time to plot my evening meal, I looked over everything I had bought and decided to make a tomato sauce to serve over pasta.  But not just a quickie 10 minute one like the ones I made countless times over the summer.  I wanted to give it a good hour or two... see how the flavors would meld and the aromas could fill my home.  Also, I wanted to pay more attention to seasoning, perhaps even incorporating some different or surprising elements.

I started off by roughly chopping a white onion and throwing it in my food processor (my favorite kitchen appliance).  Once the onion was evenly pared down to teensy bits, it went on the stove with a thick layer of olive oil on medium heat.  The onion softened for about 10 minutes before I tossed in 4 cloves of finely diced garlic (courtesy of the food processor).  I had picked up a 1lb heirloom tomato mix basket; so after a quick trip in the food processor, those followed the garlic.

Then came the seasoning.  First, the obligatory salt and pepper.  Then, no stranger to pasta sauce, oregano.  A big fan adding red chile pepper flakes to pretty much anything, I threw in a dash of that with an accompanying dash of cayenne pepper.  As I rifled through my cabinet, I recalled my first trip to Greece.  I had ordered some pasta dish and, after taking the first bite, detected something unusual in it.  It took me a minute to figure out that it was cinnamon.  Definitely different for me, but I quickly acquired a taste for it.  And so, in went a liberal sprinkling of cinnamon!  Not quite satisfied, I decided to add some smoked paprika, a recent obsession for me.

I turned the heat down to low and let everything simmer together for about an hour.  In the last 10 minutes, I threw in some chopped arugula and baby spinach to up the green factor.  And of course it would not be complete without a bit of cheese!  So I grated a small hunk of asiago cheese over the sauce before turning off the heat.  After ladling the sauce over my pasta, I pulled my secret side dish out of the oven: garlic cheddar bread (House of Bread) which had been wrapped in foil and baked at 400 for about 20 minutes with butter, parmesan, and smoked paprika.

Sooooooo good... definitely  making more next time!  The cayenne and chile pepper added a subtle kick while the paprika added an amazing smokiness and the cinnamon finished it off with a light sweetness.  I would highly recommend trying out these spices in your next sauce.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

To be completely honest, I have never had a great New Year's Eve.  But year after year, I continue to be swept up in the romanticism of the holiday.  It is a time for reflection of the year that has passed and hope for things to come, a time for new beginnings.  

Recently, someone asked me how I would rate the past year on a scale from 1 to 10.  After thinking about it for a moment, I said an 8 or 9.  My answer surprised me, but the more I thought about it, the truer it felt.  2009 was a year of turning points in my life: I left San Francisco and moved back to my college town, turned 25, adopted a dog, got my own apartment and really took the time to make it a home, I was fired,  I finally let go of some bad relationships, and made some big realizations about the direction I am heading.  At the beginning of the year, I felt completely lost in the midst of a quarter life crisis.  I knew I was not happy, but I did not know how I could change that.     

So it has pretty much taken the entire 12 months, and now I can say I am really happy with my life.  No other year has been as difficult or taught me as much about myself or the person I want to be as 2009 did.  To honor everything I have learned, I made a few simple resolutions for 2010:

Take care of myself.  Eat well, be active.

Take care of my heart.  Spend time and energy on people who do the same.

Let go of the negative.

How would you rate 2009, and what resolutions have you made?  Looking forward to a great year :)