Saturday, February 19, 2011

In the Kitchen with Karla



Girl's Night Out


What's more fun than being in the kitchen when you don't have to be - laughing and talking and enjoying a glass of wine with your friends?

Last night we hosted a lively group for a Girl's Night Out Cooking Class. Ten women came from Fredericksburg for a get-away evening of friendship and fun (and what a fun group they were!)


In the Kitchen with Karla
We spent the evening in the kitchen, chopping and peeling and using the food processor but more eating went on than cooking. It was great! Our menu was, of course, Italian…. everyone's favorite.

We started off with an olive oil tasting. Little bits of fresh from the oven bread were dipped into tiny bowls of six different oils of various prices ranging from $6.95 to $23.00 a bottle. All the oils were first cold press, extra virgin - the best quality olive oil in any price range. The favorite was a mid price oil from Spain. The most expensive (the $23 oil) was the least favorite which just goes to show that price does not necessarily guarantee good taste.

Home made fresh bread
was dipped into olive oil
for tasting


The Menu
  • Fresh Carrot and Almond Milk Bisque
  • Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells with Browned Garlic Minute Marinara
  • Oven Baked Italian Breaded Chicken
  • Salad of Fresh Green with Home Made Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Trio of Home Made Desserts (Slow Cooker Baked Creamy Cheesecake/Pistachio Cheesecake/Cappuccino Cheesecake Truffles ™
  • Dessert Wine Shooters (white dessert wine served in chocolate cups)
  • Espresso


More eating than cooking -
now that's Italian!

Recipe

Minute Marinara with Browned Garlic
So quick, so easy and so much better tasting that you'll never buy sauce in a jar again.

Good the day it's made, better the next.

Serve over pasta, chicken, seafood or in any recipe calling for pasta sauce.

Makes about 4 cups sauce

1/3 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic (or to taste - chopped or pressed)
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes (not tomato puree)
A little water to rinse out the cans (about 1/4 cup water total - not much more)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the garlic and olive oil together and cook garlic until fragrant and lightly browned. Do not burn.

Add the tomatoes and their juices. Put a little water into the cans and swish it around to rinse out the cans then add the tomato water to the pot. Do not use more than about 1/4 cup water in all.

Stir or whisk sauce together. Cook, uncovered and stirring frequently, on medium to medium/low heat to reduce the sauce slightly - about 10 minutes. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles all the time without burning the sauce. You want to evaporate some of the moisture to make it thick.

Variation
For a lighter, more fresh tomato taste, cook the garlic in the oil to release the flavor but don't let it brown.


Karla's Tips
We particularly like the "Great Value" brand of tomatoes available at Walmart and (in our area) the Giant. We think it tastes fresh and tomato-ee.

Our least favorite brand is Furano's - it tastes over cooked and lacks the fresh taste we like. Avoid brands that have sugar, corn syrup or sweeteners and/or flavorings added.

Salt and citric acid (vitamin C) are OK. They're common additives to all brands so the tomatoes don't have to be processed a long time. Long processing over cooks the tomato and the taste suffers.

Home canners will notice that when canning tomatoes, salt and vinegar or lemon juice are commonly added. This cuts the water bath processing time which helps keep the tomatoes fresh tasting. Without salt and vinegar or lemon juice processing time would be much longer. Both salt and vinegar (or lemon juice) are acids.

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