Vegan since 1975, I decide to answer the question, "What DO you eat?" These posts tell about some meals and recipes my family and I have enjoyed over the years.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tomato Sauce

About once a week if you have time it's helpful to make some TOMATO SAUCE. If some vegans are stopping in for dinner, you can't go wrong with some pasta and sauce, a salad and maybe some garbanzo beans either thrown in the sauce or cooked up on the side, and perhaps some cooked greens. Then the sauce can hang around for about a week in the refrigerator, helping out in other dishes, or repeats of a pasta dinner, or, if you live alone, you can freeze it in small portions (or in an ice cube tray, transferring it to a freezer bag) for use in soups or whenever you need a little sauce. It's cheaper than store bought, and it tastes a lot fresher. It's also good on pizzas—homemade or store bought rounds, or even english muffin pizzas in your toaster oven for lunch, topped with your favorite vegan cheese substitute, or shredded Tofu-Lin, nutritional yeast, olive oil, oregano and a ring of onion.

I saute three chopped onions in about a tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat, adding two chopped carrots (which make the sauce more colorful, nutritive and sweet), a couple of chopped celery stalks if you have them, and, eventually, seven or so cloves of minced garlic. You should be able to chop these all up before the onions start to get too brown, if you have washed and assembled them first. Add the garlic last, as it burns easily.

At this point add in two large (twenty-two ounce) cans of crushed or pureed tomatoes, unless you have the time to cook down whole canned or fresh pear or Roma-style tomatoes. If it is summer and the tomatoes are ripe, you can make a quick cooked sauce at this point, not cooking it down into a heavier winter sauce. But we're a few months away from that season right now, so I'll talk about the canned or frozen tomato kind of sauce.

The sauce should now be just slowly bubbling, as a high heat can turn the tomatoes bitter. You could also add a can of tomato paste, if you'd like to thicken it up (especially if, like me, you have added a bit of water, trying to get every bit washed out of the cans).

It's up to you how you like your sauce to taste. If you don't like chopped up carrots, you can just add a whole one, and remove it before you serve the sauce, for instance. I suppose you could use dry seasonings all around, if that's what you have, including garlic and onion powder, especially if there are people living with you who don't like the texture of onions or celery. Or you could blend part of the sauce for them at the end, hiding all the nutrients but retaining their goodness.

At this point, lately I've been chopping up a can of black olives and adding them to my sauce. If you have a small wooden bowl and a rounded bottom chopper, that makes it easier than chasing them around a flat chopping block or cleaning out a food processor, but any of these methods work. You could also have added a few chopped mushrooms back when you were sautéing the vegetables, if you've thought ahead to buy some.
Add in pinches of your favorite herbs. I use basil, oregano, marjoram, parsley, turmeric (just because no one will know, and it's good to have every day) and a bay leaf.

If you'd like to add a bit more depth to the flavor of your sauce you can add some red wine or vodka, or some vegetarian Worcestershire sauce. The alcohol will cook off, leaving an interesting flavor.

Towards the end of the cooking add salt and pepper or tamari and red pepper to taste. The cooking can go on and on for several hours if you have a woodstove and started early in the day, and if you are dedicated to stirring it at intervals, or it can be done within a half hour.

Serve with your favorite pasta, some cooked greens (just steam chopped kale or collards for about fifteen minutes, or just until softened but still green, not a pallid grey color) or brocolli sprinkled with lemon or balsamic vinegar and perhaps a dash of good olive oil, and some fried tofu. If you add a salad and some garlic bread, you have a feast.

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