SalmonBerry

Posts Tagged ‘writer’

Not Yo Mama’s Marinara

In Mindfulness, Nutrition, Recipe on January 10, 2015 at 7:49 pm
marinara - cooking tomatoes

Hurry, make them into marinara before they turn to mush!

Growing up in Alaska gave me this do-it-yourself kind of attitude. You couldn’t just run to the nearest shopping center to get what you (thought you) needed. Add the fact of if you are choosing to live in Alaska, you are most likely quite eccentric; however, also quite resourceful. This lends to the attitude of “why purchase it when you can make it, build it, grow it, kill it – yourself?” As I live now, everything is available for purchase and yet sometimes I still insist on DIY just to prove to myself that I’ve got skills (useful ones, that is).

So I picked a Sunday at the end of the tomato growing season – November here in SoCal (I know you’re jealous) – and dedicated the day to stocking my freezer with tomato sauce. I took an hour break to watch the sunset and I met a girlfriend for lunch but otherwise my day consisted of buying tomatoes, coring and pureeing tomatoes, and boiling and simmering tomatoes. I had to write this blog post standing at my kitchen counter lest the pot of sauce start sticking.

marinara - 30#

How will I get 30# of tomatoes home?

I used a fantastic marinara recipe from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s very herb-y and non-traditional. The first time I used the recipe, I harvested all the tomatoes from my garden at the end of the season and thought I would be able to stock my freezer full of tomato sauce for the whole winter. “No one will starve this winter, family, I have taken care of it!” Like I was Pa Ingalls settling into the The Long Winter. As a child, I really empathized with Laura Ingalls Wilder and re-read that series more than twice during the long, dark Alaskan winters. Previously, my “harvest” yielded about 9 cups of marinara sauce. Clearly, we’d starve if left to our own devices. This time I headed to the La Jolla Open Aire Market for the tomatoes since my garden is currently, um, underutilized right now. And, in my exuberance for this project, I promised quite a few people that I would just hand over some of the sauce when it was done. I am no longer feeling so generous. This was a lot of work and I mean to enjoy it all. These 27 cups of marinara are just too precious.

marinara and sausage

My marinara with a friend’s homemade sausage.

I heart Barbara Kingsolver – like a lot. Like stalker-level. But only in my mind. I don’t write her wacko fan letters or find out where she is vacationing in San Diego. But, like, I kinda want to be her. She’s a scientist and a writer – two things that I like to call myself. We both have degrees in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (hers is a Masters and mine is a Bachelors) so I feel like it’s possible to be even a teensy, weensy bit like her. Her books often focus on the interactions between humans and their environments as well as biodiversity and her writing is smart and insightful with a dry wit. All things I love or want to be. My favorites are: The Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

The Poisonwood Bible had a whiff of my childhood about it with the missionary parents and all the daughters named after religious figures (check out my sister’s photography) and living in another culture but, luckily, none of the madness and tragedy. Prodigal Summer really spoke to me because of the themes of interconnectedness between all things living whether human animal, wild animal, or plants and the elements on which they all depend. And then there is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. If you thought you were a local foodie, think again. Kingsolver chronicles the year her family lived on their farm and ate only local food whether they raised it themselves or traded with other local farmers. It’s fascinating and funny and discusses food politics, nutrition, and environmental sustainability as well as the practical issues of trying to explain to your children’s friends why bananas are not allowed in your house.

marinara - tomatoes in blender

This is not the best way to puree tomatoes. I switched to a food processor.

So I tried out Barbara’s life for a day and, phew, this was quite the undertaking. It didn’t exactly take me all day as far as hours were concerned but you will definitely need to clear your calendar for the day and have no further objectives other than the process of making tomato sauce. You’ll notice (or maybe not) that this sauce doesn’t have any olive oil in it. The original recipe was meant for canning and adding oil to a canning food is a dangerous liability from a food safety perspective. From a nutritional perspective, fat makes the vitamin A and lycopene in the tomatoes much more accessible to the body for assimilation. I recommend making it as is and then, when you are defrosting and reheating this winter, swirl some olive oil into the pot for added flavor and nutrition.

Family Secret Tomato Sauce (makes 6-7 quarts) from “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver

10 quarts tomato puree (about 30# of tomatoes)

4 large onions, chopped (processed into a soupy foam)

marinara - ready

Ingredients all lined up and ready to go.

1 cup dried basil

1/2 cup honey

4 TBSP dried oregano

3 TBSP salt

2 TBSP ground dried lemon peel

2 TBSP thyme

2 TBSP garlic powder, or more, to taste

2 TBSP dried parsley

2 tsp pepper

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

marinara - pot

Maxed out sauce pot.

Add pureed tomatoes, onions, all the spices, and honey to a REALLY large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer on low for 2 to 3 hours until sauce has thickened to your desired consistency. You may need to stir frequently towards the end to avoid burning. Transfer to freezable containers (leave some head space if using glass and make sure sauce is cooled first) and feel good about yourself that you’re stocked with marinara for the long, cold winter.

Potato Leek Soup with Dill Oil

In Nutrition, Recipe on December 24, 2014 at 3:03 am

“The point is to write as much as you know as quickly as possible.” -Kurt Vonnegut

disco joy

Go where the joy is

I’m not sure in what context he said the above quote but I thought it was inspiring and could be applied to almost any creative pursuit.

There can be this palpable rush of needing to get it all out of you already.

I’ve always liked to write but I used to be confined, as an environmental consultant, to the rigid rules of technical writing. It feels so liberating to blog about food and nutrition and yoga; however, I hold back from doing much writing and mostly stick to presenting recipes. I am self-conscious about the fact that I have neither an English degree nor experience in journalism and editing. Jeez, I was even terrible about keeping up a diary as a young girl. I now journal regularly but that doesn’t necessarily make you a writer, right?

Kurt Vonnegut’s formal education was in biochemistry and he also obtained a Master’s degree in anthropology: “I’m on the New York State Council for the Arts now,” he told The Paris Review, “and every so often some other member talks about sending notices to college English departments about some literary opportunity, and I say, ‘Send them to the chemistry departments, send them to the zoology departments, send them to the anthropology departments and the astronomy departments and physics departments, and all the medical and law schools. That’s where the writers are most likely to be… I think it can be tremendously refreshing if a creator of literature has something on his mind other than the history of literature so far. Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak.”

butter in dill oil

Every good soup begins with butter…and dill oil.

Reading this single quote by this one author inspired me to just do it already. Just start writing about anything and everything that popped into my head. It’s OK that I didn’t get my degree in English Lit. I feel aligned with Vonnegut in that I have two science degrees, so why not pursue writing?! I’ve always been a voracious and quick reader and have consumed so many books in my lifetime that you would think I’d have absorbed decent sentence structure and a vast vocabulary.

For my trip to India last fall, I decided to list “writer, nutritionist” as my occupation when filling out my visa forms. This was an attempt to start establishing myself as a writer in my subconscious while actually attempting to become a working writer. This proved to be problematic as I was then labeled a journalist and had to fill out additional paperwork stating that I would not be acting in a journalistic capacity while in India and, although I requested a 10-year visa, I was only awarded a 5-year visa. Apparently, I’ve got to reach enlightenment by 2018 and then I’m on my own.

potato leek soup

Drizzled, topped, and sprinkled with dill oil, toasted almonds, and Gruyere cheese

So, on to the soup…obviously there are a TON of potato-leek versions out there but they aren’t all good or even all that simple (which I feel like this humble soup should be). This is a really quick and easy soup for the busy holiday season. It’s perfect to make when you are tired of preparing all the fancy holiday dinners and just want something nourishing. A bonus is that you probably already have all the ingredients on hand.

I think this soup caught my eye b/c of the toppings. I am sucker for garnishing and embellishing my food. So the addition of a drizzle of dill oil, toasted almonds, and Gruyere was more than I could resist. Plus, this soup requires few ingredients and can easily be made vegan (sub olive oil for butter). I simplified the preparation a bit without sacrificing taste (I think) and feel free to get creative with the toppings. Pureed soups sometimes need a bit of embellishing in order to give them depth and texture.

potato leek soup - ingredients

Leeks, dill, and red potatoes…and not much else.

I used red-skinned potatoes which are perhaps not the most “thin-skinned” potato but look prettiest in pictures so, thus, were chosen. Yukon Gold potatoes are perhaps the creamier and thinner-skinned choice for this soup. Experiment.

The following makes a large pot (8-10 servings):

1 small bunch of fresh dill
9 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3.5 pounds leeks
6 TBSP unsalted butter
Sea salt
3 medium-sized, or 4-6 small, potatoes, thinly sliced
4-8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the flat side of knife

4 cups veggie broth, for cooking, and up to 4 cups more for thinning the soup

Toppings: almond slices, toasted and Gruyere cheese, grated

Use a hand blender to puree the dill and olive oil into a creamy green emulsion. Set aside.

Cut the dark, tough green leaves from the leeks, trim off the roots, and wash/rinse well. Use a food processor to chop the leeks in two batches. 

In a large soup pot, heat the butter and 5 tablespoons of the dill oil over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and is bubbling, stir in the leeks and a couple big pinches of salt. Stir well, then cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks soften up, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in the potatoes and garlic and 4 cups of veggie broth. Simmer until potatoes are soft and mushy. Puree with a hand blender and then continue to add veggie broth until the consistency suits your taste.

Bring back to a simmer, then serve topped with almonds, grated cheese, and a generous drizzle of the remaining dill oil.