Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Food for thought...

Growing, preparing, and enjoying food is one of the lifelong gifts given to me by my family. No matter how varied my creativity has been, and will ever be, cooking is what I've always enjoyed, and what I'll always come back to. I can't stress how important good nutrition is, so you can look forward to a lot more posts about food, and more importantly, good nutrition, in the future.

For now, I'd like to share a very basic pasta marinara recipe that is so fast and easy, it can almost be classified as "fast food". It's great when you need to get a meal together in a hurry after a busy day, and can be done in the time it takes to cook the pasta. But, it's a far cry from what we know as fast food!! This is substantial, nutritious, and more importantly, it's good, "clean" food - all the flavor and color comes from the ingredients themselves, and nothing else. On top of that, it's also very inexpensive to prepare, and for those who have gardens, the only expense is the pasta.

Pasta Marinara:

*1 large can of whole of chopped tomatoes. (or about a dozen or so of fresh, washed, and halved plum tomatoes - remove the green part of the stem). Plum tomatoes are best for sauce, but regular tomatoes can also be used, but will need to "cook down" more due to the higher water content)

*Olive oil - light or virgin - about 1/8 - 1/4 cup

*One medium onion - finely chopped

*4-6 cloves of fresh garlic, (more or less to taste), or chopped garlic from the jar. (fresh is really better)

*1-2 bay leaves (fresh is great, if available - Turkish or sweet Florida bay are the best)

*About 1/2 tsp of dried basil. (a bit more if using fresh)

*About 1/4 tsp dried oregano. (a bit more if using fresh)

*A pinch of dried of chopped fresh peppermint leaves

*About 1 tsp dried parsley, (more if using fresh)

*Salt, pepper to taste

*Optional - finely chopped fresh or dried hot pepper flakes - to taste

*1 lb of regular or thin Spaghetti

*Put a large pot of water on the stove on high heat. While this is coming to a boil, open the can of tomatoes, (or, if using fresh, remove the green stem and halve the tomatoes), and start peeling and chopping the onions and garlic.

*When the water is almost boiling, start heating the olive oil in a shallow pan. Add the chopped onions, and sprinkle with salt. (no garlic yet - it will burn!!).

*The water for the pasta should be boiling now, and while the onions are cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water, and give it a stir.

*Keep the heat under the onions fairly high. When the onions are soft and just staring to brown, add the chopped garlic, cook for a few seconds, then add the tomatoes, bay leaf, salt, and spices. If fresh tomatoes are used, place them cut side down, and slip the skin off when it becomes soft and easy to remove.

*Give the pasta stir and check for doneness.

*Continue to cook and frequently stir the tomato mixture. If you're using whole tomatoes, break them apart with a fork or any available chopping device until they are in the size pieces you want.

*When the pasta is cooked, drain it well and return it to the pan. Coat it with enough olive oil to keep it from sticking together, (a couple of tablespoons is sufficient), and give it a stir. By now the sauce should be done.

*Dish out the pasta and top with sauce. Sprinkle with a bit of fresh chopped parsley and grated cheese if desired, (freshly grated cheese is really the best!).


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