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The BloggerAid Cookbook

Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce (Tomato)

Tomato has always been my favourite fruit, or more precisely favorite veggie until I learned it was actually not one. So what makes a fruit a fruit and a vegetable, a vegetable? Basically if it has seeds, then technically (botanically), it's a fruit. So does that means cucumbers, green beans and walnuts are all fruits? Yes. And the rest of the plant where the fruit is from like the leaves (spinach), stems (celery), roots (carrots) and flowers (cauliflower) are referred as vegetables.

For the record, tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, A & K, molybdenum, potassium, magnesium, dietary fiber, chromium, and vitamin B1,B2 & B6, folate, copper, niacin, iron, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, vitamin E and protein. With all these healthy benefits, we should eat more of this fruit. Don't you agree?;-)

Tomatoes are sensitive to cold, so don't put unripe tomatoes in the refrigerator as the cold temperature will impede their ripening process. It is best to store them at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. However, if the overripe tomatoes are not ready to be eaten, keep them in the refrigerator (it will keep for another one or two more days). Tomatoes stored in the refrigerator tend to lose flavor but they will regain maximum flavour and juiciness if taken out 30 minutes before using them. To hasten the ripening process, place tomatoes in a paper bag with a banana or apple.

As you might guessed it by now, today's recipe is all about tomatoes, lots of it.:-) Today I'm introducing a very popular Italian sauce called marinara sauce. Why is it popular? Simply because it is very quick and easy to prepare and the simplicity of this sauce makes it a very common and versatile base for many Italian dishes. The word marinara derives from the Italian word for sailor, marinaro (please correct me if I'm wrong). This sauce dated back to the 16th century, originated from Naples - back then, it was a very popular sauce to cook by the cooks on board sailing ships as it is easy to whip up, meatless and the high acid content of the tomatoes makes the sauce last longer.

This is my all time favourite pasta sauce. I have tried so many times to replicate this sauce sans success until my mom-in law gave me this book recently. All that went wrong with my 'tryings' is simply I didn't add enough tomatoes. Duh! Something so simple yet has such big enough impact on it. Amazing, isn't it.

Sphaghetti with Marinara Sauce (Tomato)

Taken from Cooking Light - Pasta

Serves: 6

Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1½ tbsp minced garlic
  • 2.7 kg or 6 cups tomatoes (coarsely chopped & peeled)
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ cup fresh basil (chopped)
  • ¼ cup fresh persil (chopped)
  • cooked sphaghetti (600 g uncooked sphaghetti)
Marinara Sauce (Tomato)
Directions
  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic, let it cook for about 2 minutes stirring it frequently.
  3. Add tomato, season it with salt & pepper, bring to a boil. Then reduce heat, let it simmer for 25 minutes, stirring it occasionally.
  4. Add in chopped basil & persil, let it cook for 1 minute.
  5. Serve with pasta and parmesan (optional).
Marinara Sauce (Tomato)
The Verdict

Obviously it's very tomatoey, and you'll taste the difference if you use quality tomatoes. I only had dried basil and persil but this was so flavorful and "sunny", just imagine using fresh ones! Little One loves it and so did the adults who had 2nd and 3rd helpings.

Notes

Normally I cook a big batch of it and freeze the sauce in small batches - it comes in handy on days when I don't know what to cook or run out of food in the fridge or a very hungry kid or adults who can't wait for me to slave over the stove to present a big meal.:-)

For some kick in the pasta, add some dried chili when you are cooking the garlic. You can either remove them before adding the tomato or just leave them in. If you have little mouths, scoop up some sauce aside for them and throw in some freshly cut chilies to the rest of the sauce for adults.

Peeling tomatoes

Score a small 'X' with a knife at the bottom of each tomatoes. Place them in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove them with a slotted spoon and quickly plunge them in iced water to stop the cooking. The skin is easily removed once the tomatoes are cooled.

Marinara Sauce (Tomato)
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Carottes Râpées (Grated Carrot Salad)

Carrots - so many kids hate them with a passion. Even my hubby won't touch that stuff no matter how deliciously it has been cooked or presented to him. I think I know why. When Little One started on her first solid food - guess what was the first most recommended food to introduce to a baby? Carrots. Since they are sweet, babies love them and as it is full of nutrients it's a baby's classic along with other infamous spinach. Unfortunately my baby didn't get to eat much either because of digestion issues. Oh well!

Thankfully there are a few ways to serve carrots to people who don't enjoy them so much. Carrot cake is one. Another one is Carottes Râpées (Grated Carrot Salad) that I'm going to introduce today. It is a very popular side French dish that my mom-in-law often prepares at home. It's available at many café and bistro menus, even at charcuteries and supermarkets where it is often sold in small plastic boxes ready to go. It's pretty easily done, requires very little time to prepare and the best of all: it's healthy, fresh and delicious. This is perfect for those who are trying to get kids or adults to eat carrot, because the lemon flavor is dominant over the carrot one. A ninja got to be sneaky;-)

Carottes Râpées (Grated Carrot Salad)
Ingredients
  • 5 fresh carrot (medium size)
  • 1/2 organic lemon (home grown)
  • 1 clove garlic (chopped)
  • parsley (chopped)
  • salt & pepper
  • 5 tbsp olive oil (approx.)
carottes rapees
Directions
  1. Grate the carrots and lemon together and put it in a big salad bowl.
  2. Throw in the chopped garlic and parsley. Season it with salt and pepper.
  3. Pour in about 5 tbsp olive oil, mix until everything is combined.
  4. Serve cold.
The Verdict

I'm so surprised by the taste and aroma of this simple salad. The fragrant lemon skin and juice dominates but doesn't overwhelm the sweet taste of the carrots, in fact the combination brings out the best of both fruit and vegetable. I'm not a big fan of carrots but this is really good. I went for a 2nd, 3rd and 4th helping without any guilt, as its so low in calories.:-)

Notes

Home-grown lemon has very thick skin which gives this salad a fantastic aroma and taste. If you are using a lemon from supermarket (it's preferable to buy an organic one as the skin is non-treated), use only 1/3 of it if the lemon is very juicy.

carottes rapees
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Taboulé à la Française

Our mini summer vacation at Pierre's grandparent's house up in Brittany was great - love the big old house and the vast green for our little ninja to run about and explore on her own, not forgetting the trips to the seaside: she loves running after the waves and refused to return home even though she was turning blue from cold. She also had a great time playing ball with her 96 year old great grandmother and was up to non-stop mischiefs around the house - climbing on the chairs and the stairs (I had a little heart-attack-moment when I found her half way up the stairs to the 1st level looking for her grandmother). Little ninja enjoyed herself thoroughly, can't say the same for her parents. We were suffering terribly from IWS (Internet Withdrawal Syndrome). As much as we were enjoying ourselves with the slow and tranquil pace of life in Brittany, I don't know if we could have survived 1 more week of surfing via a telephone line. Gosh! It's great to be back in civilization - first thing I did when I got back (after unpacking all the stuff of course) is kiss my ADSL modem. Man, I miss it so much. All I need is just switch on my PC and all the pages flow so fast, pulled out of thin air through the magic of Wifi.

Now, back to the kitchen... today I'm going to introduce a wonderful appetizer called Taboulé - a North African appetizer that consists of herbs mixed together with tomatoes, cucumber and couscous. The original recipe is made up mainly of parsley and mint and Bulgur instead of couscous, however the dish has become popular in France in a slightly modified form.

My very first taste of taboulé was at Michèle's house. It was very sunny that day - a perfect day for BBQ (that's what we had) and we were all withering under the summer heat till Michèle brought out this lovely and cold delicious looking bowl full of fresh veggies and some sort of wheat in it. I was rather intrigued by it. At first mouthful, I fell totally in love with this dish.

Taboulé à la Française
Ingredients
  • 500 g couscous grains, semolina (medium or fine)
  • 1 big cucumber (peeled, cored and diced in small pieces)
  • 4 or 5 big tomatoes (skinned, seeded and diced in small pieces)
  • 8 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 1/2 lemons
  • 3 big sweet onions
  • a bunch of parsley and mint leaves
  • a few black or green olives (chopped, optional)
  • a dash or two of Tabasco sauce or cayenne chili powder (optional)
  • salt & pepper
Taboulé ingredients
Directions
  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix the olive oil and lemon juice with the couscous. Set aside.
  2. Make a cross (X) on the bottom of the tomatoes. Bring a pot of water to a boil, drop the tomatoes into the pot and count to 10. Scoop it out with a slotted spoon and plunge them in ice cold water for a second or two. Take them out and peel the skin off using a sharp knife or your fingers. Remove the seeds and cut the tomatoes into small cubes. Put all of them in the couscous mixture.
  3. Peel the cucumber, remove the core and cut it into small cubes. Mix them together with the tomatoes and the coucous.
  4. In a mixer, pulse a bunch of parsley, mint leaves and sweet onions. Add this chopped herb mixture into the taboulé.
  5. Mix in the chopped olives and season it with salt and pepper, a dash or two Tabasco sauce or cayenne chili powder.
  6. Cover it with a plastic film and refrigerated it for at least 6 hours.
  7. Check the taboulé. The couscous should taste soft and moist. If it is a bit dry, add a bit of water and adjust the seasoning if needed. Repeat the adding of water till the couscous is soft to taste.
  8. Serve it cold as appetizer.
taboulé
Conclusions

It's a very refreshing appetizer with a minty-parsley-lemony aroma, the crunchiness (and coolness) of cucumber and the lovely flavour of tomatoes all mixed into one. I like how all the herbs and vegetables complement each other so lovely together. The dash of Tabasco gives it a very light kick. It's great dish for summer.

Notes

What I like best about this dish is :

  • I can make a big bowl of it and keep it in the fridge for a few days. (A great dish to have for those days when I just prefer a light lunch or dinner - a good alternative to having salad).
  • You can adjust the mixture of taboulé to your preference - more parsley or minty taste; add more or less cucumber or tomatoes to your liking, more lemon juice or less etc.
  • You can never go wrong with it because you can always add water bit by bit to it if the taboulé is a bit dry.
taboule
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