The most important thing we do everyday is eat.
I’ve never been a particulary good cook, perhaps because I never follow the recipe. I tend to want to embellish and experiment, more often than not degrading an otherwise perfect dish.
Once in a while I find greatness! I made ribs in 1997 that were the best I’ve ever had. I have no idea what I did and I search for the answer still. I made pumpkin bread in 1992 that cannot be rivalled. I know not how. This week I made spaghetti sauce that was better than most. I’m not saying it was incredible, but I wanted more until it was gone. I thought maybe I should try to remember what I did exactly so this one doesn’t go the way of the ribs … so sad.
Food is a creative, personal journey
Now it could be that cooking is a creative endeavor, which I suspect is true, and the exact mix of karma and star alignments and aged spices just don’t come around very often. I’ve thought often (yes, often! don’t laugh … you think about random stuff too!) about what was happening in my life when I made memorable dinners. The ribs coincided with moving to Austin and all that excitement. The pumpkin bread was a celebration of my little Kayleigh when we had our new house with the window in the vaulted ceiling that showed the sunrise. This recent spaghetti was for my little Ryan when we had sorta a breakthrough of understanding.
So maybe these types of things just can’t be recreated, but the recipe is still gonna make you laugh.
I’m not trying to do it like that … I’m trying to do it like it hasn’t been done!
Ok, to start out with, I have no idea how to make meatballs. I wish I did, but I don’t and I’m not tryin to do all that. So I got some stew meat from the freezer and browned it with just a small amount of olive oil. Then I snuck in a little garlic powder, which I always sneak in. I then had my usual conscious thought about avoiding salt because it can lead to problems. Then I put a little salt in. I really very rarely add salt to food, so I don’t feel guilty.
This stuff simmered for long enough to do a load of laundry and watch half of a Firefly on Netflix. The original plan was to mix the meat with some rice or pasta and be done with it. So then I came back and saw that this wasn’t just a pan of meat anymore; I was feeling industrious. So I forged ahead. I added about a quarter of a small bottle of cooking wine, which never hurts, along with some spices. About 2 shakes of oregano, a light breeze of red pepper, a heavier breeze of black pepper, 2 bay leaves, and a sprinkle of dill.
Orange juice is good for almost everything
This gave me the excuse to finish the Firefly and clean the table. As the liquid simmered down I added small amounts of water to keep some liquid going on in there. Checked my email and facebook, a dangerous activity when cooking as you may also have learned, and came back to continue. The stuff looked ready for some real action, so I took out a whole container of those cute little salad tomatoes and dropped them in with a half a cup of water. After smashing them a bit, I added a little orange juice, because we are out of sugar and just because, and let them stew a while.
Another Firefly later, and Ryan was poking around getting interested. So I told him about what I did, except for the orange juice part. He was liking the smell a lot and bugging me about how much he is starving and the starving kids in Africa feel bad for him … and all that 11 year old drama. So I must be doing it right.
Tomato paste is not made correctly in the US
Some more garlic and oregano and removal of the bay leaves (those things are creepy if you get a bite of them) and it was looking pretty smooth. The only problem, which is often a problem I have, is that this really good sauce wasn’t red. I mean, not red at all. Even the tomatoes had lost their red. I’m sure some culinary expert could explain where I went wrong, but I don’t get it. Tomato paste? Does that stuff really make a difference? I’m betting on tomato paste, which is gross anyway. Sour tomato paste … because I don’t have any.
In any event, the stuff turned out very good. I had some whole wheat pasta, because they say it has a lower glycemic index and all those goodies, sitting ready nearby. Added a little of the ‘farmer jon’ cheese and it was just really very good. If I had some mushrooms to cook in there, things would have really been interesting, but Ryan hates mushrooms anyway so I guess it worked out.
So these random bits of everything turned out to be pretty good. And it only took 2 TV shows and some laundry! I had to starve my son for almost 30 extra minutes so I hope they don’t call child services on me, but I took a chance. There is just something fun about wandering around the kitchen and putting things together while trying to imagine how it will turn out in the end. When it works, it is wonderful. When it doesn’t, I can claim I’m not a cook anyway and I don’t care.
Following the recipe is never nearly as rewarding!
Related articles that I haven’t tried at all but they look good:
- Really Good, Really Easy Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce (nancysrecipes.wordpress.com)
- Linda’s Spaghetti Sauce (ourfamilyfavoritescookbook.wordpress.com)
- Italian Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (hungryhugheys.wordpress.com)
- Grandpa’s Christmas Eve Spaghetti Sauce (katseasykitchen.com)