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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Memory Sauce

It's not just about the food, meals often have memories attached, stories to be told and shared. Creating this sauce has more than one; learning how to make sauce at all from scratch from my Italian mother-in-law, acquiring the tomatoes from my sister's garden, my sister's future mother-in-law's intentions with the tomatoes before a quick change of plans trip to the hospital and finally, our meal.

Recently, while on vacation at the beach, I brought what I thought were the ingredients to make home-made sauce with my mother-in-law, Rita. Of course, I forgot some key things like oregano and Parmesan (which I refer to as stinky cheese and mostly, I don't like), but we were able to buy what was needed and make a wonderful pot of sauce (gravy) to have with our spaghetti (or as she refers to all pasta, macaroni). The gravy was filled with sausage, meatballs and left-over steak. It was rich and fulfilling, leaving the table fairly quiet during the meal as everyone enjoyed the food! While many may not think of sauce when they think of the beach, these two memories are now permanently attached for me.

Home for a few weeks, my sister and her family headed out for a week away leaving her future mother-in-law, Marion in charge. Marion watched over the garden, their home and dog, Sophie with care. Unfortunately, she became quite ill on the day she intended to blanch quite a bushel of tomatoes and so my Mom escorted Marion to the hospital, my son cared for Sophie and I was given custody of the tomatoes. And so, the sauce begins...
Tomatoes are peeled and placed in a large dutch oven on the stove until they cook down and are soft. This step is the one I found to be most intimidating, Rita and I used canned tomatoes and many other steps came first. You may blanch the tomatoes first to easily remove skin, I peeled them cold and placed them in the pot.

Once the tomatoes cooked down, an immersion blender works beautifully to create the smooth sauce base.
Safety tips: Always make sure the immersion blender is indeed immersed before turning it on and NEVER try to unclog or touch the blade while the appliance is on.

Season! Salt, pepper, oregano, bay leaves all from the spice cabinet. The sauce simmered awhile longer and then for this batch, it rested in the refrigerator overnight for part 2 the next day. Before going to bed, Marion had been released from the hospital and checked on - all is well.

On the morning of Day 2, beef short ribs are seared, then the sweet sausage is browned and both meats are added to the pot.

Meatballs are created using a mix of ground chicken and ground beef, bread crumbs, egg, more oregano, salt, pepper and the stinky cheese (just a little so the taste does not overwhelm). Once they are browned, they are added to the sauce.

Onion is sauteed in the pan after the meatballs and garlic. While it slowly simmers and the anticipation builds, I am texting with my sister as she makes her way back home. I wish the story ends with all of us at a big table, enjoying the meal, but sometimes what we wish for and reality are simply not possible. Thin spaghetti is cooked and mixed with sauce, served in the special pasta bowl I received as a gift. Italian bread is sliced and placed on the table. Only 3 of us enjoy this first attempt at sauce prepared fresh from garden tomatoes, but plenty is frozen and waiting for a time when it can be shared and new memories can be created.

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