Home - is where I want to be / But I guess I'm already there /I come home -
she lifted up her wings /
Guess that this must be the place...
- Talking Heads, "Naive Melody"

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Busy Kitchen Weekend

Of all the times to misplace my camera.

To start the weekend properly, on Friday... it was a long week. So on Friday night I made a chocolate cake. On Saturday morning I iced it, but impatience got the better of me -- the butter wasn't soft enough, and did not mix in entirely with everything else, so my cake has eensy blobs of butter in the frosting, and I wouldn't have taken a picture of it anyway. It was the same cake I made for L's last birthday.

Speaking of L, she got her first haircut on Saturday! Apparently it went reasonably well. Afterwards her dad took her to Barnes and Noble, where Winnie the Pooh was making an appearance, and she got a new Thomas the Tank Engine train. Quite a good day from her point of view.

While they were out, I went to the grocery store. I didn't have much of a list yet, but I figured I might as well go ahead and get the things that I knew I needed. For once, the store was looking pretty good. I bought some bright bell peppers, which didn't even look as if they had been hurled with force from the back of a truck at some point, some salad fixings, and a grab bag of protein-type things, including a 4+ pound pork loin roast. I have never cooked a loin roast before, but I knew I had seen recipes for them that looked tasty.

I got back, put everything away, and decided that I ought to make a batch of marinara sauce for later this week. I have a training class to attend, which means I'll be home pretty late two days, which means that the menu has to be D-friendly (pasta and tacos). The recipe that I use is one that makes the rounds of the Cooking Light bulletin boards and is known simply as "Lindrussos". Some day I might pass this recipe to my kids and they will wonder who Lindrusso might be. The recipe starts by caramelizing onions, and for once I was not impatient, and I did not singe the onions, and I did not make the mistake of turning the heat up too high later on, and my marinara turned out wonderfully, without the bitter undernote it had last time, which D loyally denied being able to taste.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
3-4 medium onions, chopped
1/2 cup cup dry red wine
6 cloves garlic, crushed with the blade of a knife
3 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (or 2 28-ounce cans crushed and 2 14-ounce cans diced if you want a bit more chunkiness)
2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
pinch of crushed red pepper or more to taste
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Heat oil in a Dutch Oven over medium heat. Add chopped onions and 1 tablespoon sugar. Sauté onions for 30-45 minutes, or until sweet and caramelized. As the pan dries while onions are cooking, add red wine as needed. Once onions are done, continue to add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until well-combined. Simmer over low heat for 4-6 hours (you can simmer for less, but I would simmer for at least 1-2 hours). Stir often to keep the sauce from burning or getting overcooked. Makes about 9 cups of sauce.

In the afternoon, while JJ napped and the sauce simmered, I played with L. We even went outside and made a little snowman. It was unseasonably warm, a wonderful feeling after the seriously harsh winter we've been having, and the snow was slumping and easy to work with. I made snowballs, and she threw chunks of ice into the puddles to see them start melting.

In the course of his nap, JJ developed a lovely, though fortunately mild, croupy cough. So we called the pediatrician's office, and D went out to buy a humidifier.

There was still dinner, and that pork loin. I did a few recipe searches and came up with Chinese Red-Cooked Pork. Considerably easier than making pie, and almost as rewarding. I will say two things about the recipe, though: My loin took about thirty minutes longer than stated to get to the fork-tender stage, and it would have benefited from more, since it wasn't quite shreddable. But there's that impatience thing... and I was hungry. Second, they include instructions to "brown" the roast.

Umm... in what? A roast is not going to brown in a bath of wine and sugar. So next time I make this I may fiddle with it a bit and see if browning it represents an improvement. I still have half of my loin roast tucked in the freezer, after all. With the pork I made rice, and sliced up some of the peppers and a cucumber. L ate copious amounts of both vegetables, astonishingly, but didn't touch anything else. Perhaps I should include a crudite plate with all meals? Slices of cake made a splendid dessert.

Sunday was supper club, and just as busy a day if not more so....

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