Posts Tagged ‘italy’

Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce is another one of those classic food staples that has lost the battle to “speed and convenience”. You can buy it canned, jarred or already mixed with your favorite pasta, so why would you make it yourself? Because fresh tomatoes, slowly cooked and pureed are unflinchingly delicious, thats why.

I start out by blanching some tomatoes. These are plum tomatoes and a couple random tomatoes from a variety box I got at the farmer’s market. To blanch something bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare a bowl of ice water on the side, throw whatever it is your blanching in the pot, in this case tomatoes, for about 15-20 seconds. Pull the tomatoes out of the pot, with tongs or a spider, and immediately put them in the ice water. This will stop the tomatoes from cooking, which is good.

Next, I get the pot ready for the actual sauce. Heat the pan on low-medium and dice up some onions. When the pot is hot enough (not too hot, mind you), add some Olive Oil and then the onions with a little salt and pepper. We’re going to sweat the onions, not caramelize or saute them, so if they start to get brown, turn the heat down (I did not intend for that to rhyme, but I’m coining that phrase).

While the onions are sweating it out, turn back to your tomatoes. The skin should be really easy to peel now that we’ve blanched them, and that’s what we’re going to do next. I use a paring knife to peel mine. The trick here is to do it slowly, the slower you peel the more skin you’ll get off on one try. After I peel a tomato I poke a hole on one side (top or bottom) and give it a light squeeze in the sink, getting a few seeds and junk out. You can skip this or go further and try to get all of it out, depending on taste.

So, in go the tomatoes, some salt and pepper and some crushed red pepper. Put a lid on the pot and let it go for 10-15, still at a medium-low heat.

After 10-15, it should look like this. At this point i crush a few cloves of garlic, de-skin them and throw them in, whole. I borrowed this from José Andrés, as he would say, “it opens a window into the garlic.”
Put the lid back on and let it go for a good 30 minutes or so, this time on low heat.

After 30 minutes, take of the heat and remove the garlic, or leave a clove or two in if you’re feeling crazy. Add everything into a food processor and let it fly. It may take some time to do, but the time is spent prepping or waiting, so its not really a time waster. Besides, you can make this days in advance and save it in the fridge. Face it, you have no reason not to make this for yourself.


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Cinque Terre.

Although this region of Italy is becoming more and more “touristy” everyday, this place is a requisite to any travel itinerary to Italy or Southern France. I had a friend recently ask me for advice on where to go should he travel to Italy (he’s planning a trip to Europe now). Here’s a bit of what I had to say about the area in Northern Italy.

…next would be Cinque Terre, this is the place I talk about all the time. Its five villages on the side of a mountain connected by one long trail overlooking the sea. It is impossible not to love it here. I suggest staying in Monte Rosso, the first town. Its also the biggest and has a really great hotel/hostel in the back end of the city, nice and secluded with a perfect view of EVERYTHING. (Seriously, olive groves, the beach, small (real) vineyards, the town’s awesome architecture… everything.) From here you can hike to the next town, Vernazza, which has some decent places to eat and has some great photo opportunities down the back alleys and such. Worth the 1.5 hour hike. Also, let me mention here that it takes about an hour or two to hike between the towns and it is 110% worth it, it takes about 8 hours total, but you can catch a train back from the last (5th) town to Monte Rosso in about 25 minutes. The views alone are ridiculous and its a bit of an adventure, to say the least. When you get back from the hike, I suggest eating at Ciak. From what I’ve read its become a bit tourist-y, but when I was there it was awesome. Fresh seafood and pasta and the chef/owner, an old Sailor, still comes out to talk to his customers and explain the dishes, etc. A little knowledge of Italian wouldn’t hurt here. Liguria/cinque Terre is also where pesto was invented and they have this pasta called Trofie that was, literally, created to make pesto even better. You have to try it.

So, bare in mind that this was intended for a private email correspondence with a friend, so I recognize fully that I gush like a tourist, but, come on! How can you not? If you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about. Also, its pronounced chinquay terray, not cinqueh terreh.
*I fully advocate smoking when traveling through most parts of Europe, whether you’re a regular smoker or not. Trust me on this one.

I first discovered Cinque Terre from a calendar I had when I was little. I would stare at the same photo of Vernazza for hours imagining what it would be like to visit, to walk the small alleys, to sit at the restaurants drinking table wine and talking to friends. It was quite realization of a dream when I finally approached Vernazza, from the trail leading from Monte Rosso, walking high above the town and getting the same view I had studied for years. It is well worth its own trip, exclusive from a visit to Rome or Florence.

Cinque Terre is completely accessible by train, which is how I like to travel anywhere I go (besides the Americas). I believe I took a train from Rome to Milan and then to Monte Rosso (don’t quote me, its been almost 6 years). Once off the train you are almost immediately exposed to the Tyrrhenian Sea. You can inquire about a hostel here, but I suggest checking the Internet beforehand and making a list of a few places to inquire for a room. Vernazza has quite a few apartments to rent, called Affitti Camere, and are decently priced, especially considering their location.

The five villages of Cinque Terre, Monte Rosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, all have something to offer and are all worth checking out, I just happened to stick to the first three for the bulk of my visit to the area. Words really can’t do it justice.

Photos by me, circa ’05… I could almost grow a full beard back then…

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Man this video has it all. An italian apartment, good music, narrative and a hot chick. Italy is awesome.

This video is actually better, and more accessible, for traditional and simple Pasta with olive oil and garlic. Just saying…

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