Magnificent Meat Sauce: New and Improved

Magnificent Meat Sauce: New and Improved

Winter is a tough time for blogging, because the days are shorter, and food doesn’t look so great in photographs without sunlight. So I can either take pictures using a flash and hope that some really delicious recipes get the attention they deserve (like these ribs), or I can hold off and plan to remake a recipe on a sunnier day, with the risk that you might never learn about it (like a fantastic winter salad I haven’t gotten back to). This magnificent meat sauce recipe is a hybrid case. I originally posted it 2 years ago, amid short winter days, but it’s so delicious that it deserves to look as good as it tastes. Here it is again, with a few tweaks and a much prettier presentation.

Magnificent Meat Sauce: New and Improved

I love this recipe because it makes a big batch of sauce that can be used in a bunch of different ways. And leftovers keep perfectly in the freezer for a lazy day. To make it, heat a very large pot over medium-high heat. Into the hot pot, dump 3 pounds of ground beef. Use a spoon to break up the meat and stir it around, until it has mostly all browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to a bowl, dump out all of the liquid that the meat released, and return the pot to the stove.

Magnificent Meat Sauce: New and Improved

While the meat cooks, small dice 1 onion and 1 seeded green pepper, and mince 3 garlic cloves. Drizzle some olive oil into the empty pot, and then add in the vegetables. Sweat the vegetables until they soften and turn translucent. Then, pour in 1/2 cup of white wine. Use your spoon to scrape up any bits of food that are stuck to the pot, and then let the wine cook off.

Magnificent Meat Sauce: New and Improved

To the pot, add a 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes, a large can or jar of marinara sauce (I think mine was 25 ounces), and 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. And now for the seasonings…sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil, 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, 2 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Stir everything together.

Magnificent Meat Sauce: New and Improved

Add the browned meat into the pot of tomato sauce, and give it a good stir. Bring the sauce to a simmer, partially cover the pot, and let it cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Magnificent Meat Sauce: New and Improved

After the hour, add 3 tablespoons of minced fresh basil to the sauce, along with 1 parmesan cheese rind. Let the sauce simmer for 30 more minutes. Cook it with the lid on for a saucier sauce, off for a thicker sauce, or partially on for somewhere in between.

Magnificent Meat Sauce: New and Improved

While the sauce finishes cooking, boil some pasta according to its package’s instructions. Once the pasta is drained, return it to its pot, and stir in some of the meat sauce until it completely coats the pasta. Portion the pasta out into bowls, and top it with some fresh basil and fresh parmesan cheese. Enjoy the comfort, beauty, and versatility of this meal (use on sandwiches or pizza too!).

This recipe is adapted from the Pioneer Woman.

Shopping list:

  • Ground beef- 3 pounds
  • Onion- 1
  • Green pepper- 1
  • Garlic- 3 cloves
  • White wine- 1/2 cup
  • Crushed tomatoes- 28 ounces
  • Marinara sauce- 25 ounces
  • Tomato paste- 2 tablespoons
  • Dried thyme- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Dried basil- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Red pepper flakes- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Bay leaf- 2
  • Sugar- 1 tablespoon
  • Kosher salt- 1 teaspoon
  • Fresh basil- 3 tablespoons+
  • Parmesan cheese rind- 1 + cheese for topping
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Warming Miso Soup

Warming Miso Soup

One of my favorite rituals in Japan was beginning each meal with a small bowl of miso soup. Especially when served with breakfast, the elixir had a special way of warming and opening up my chest, getting me ready for the day. It was the best feeling. Miso soup was never served with a spoon, just chopsticks. To get the broth, you’d lift the bowl to your lips and sip. The whole time we were in Japan, I was excited to get home and make my own miso soup. I knew it was possible, because one of the Global Supper Club members made a fantastic version for our Japan dinner nearly a year earlier. The hardest part about making it is gathering the proper ingredients.

Warming Miso Soup

Two essentials are kombu and bonito flakes. Kombu is dried kelp. I bought mine at a market in Kyoto, but it is also available at Japanese markets or online. Bonito is very thin shavings of dried, smoked fish. They were shaving it fresh at the markets in Japan, but I bought mine online.

Warming Miso Soup

To make the soup, take out 4 pieces of the kombu, wet a cloth, and wipe the white sea salt off of the kombu. Add 8 cups of water to a large pot and add the kombu. Heat the pot until the water steams and gets a few bubbles, but do not let it boil. One of the themes I’ve noticed in Japanese cuisine is cooking foods very gently. Once the water heats to this stage, the kombu should have bloomed and started putting off a kind of sappy substance that adds viscosity and substance to the soup. Remove the kombu.

Warming Miso Soup

Add 1 large handful of bonito flakes to the pot, and give them a quick stir. Heat the soup just below boiling for about 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the bonito flakes sit for another 3 minutes.

Warming Miso Soup

Set a strainer over another pot, and pour the soup through. You now have a dashi! The liquid should be strikingly clear and pure looking.

Warming Miso Soup

To turn the dashi into miso soup, you’ll need some miso. I prefer white miso, also called shiro miso. Add 5 tablespoons of miso paste to a small bowl, spoon in some of the dashi, and stir it together so the miso thins out.

Warming Miso Soup

Then stir the miso into the soup in increments, tasting until you like the flavor.

Warming Miso Soup

Now it’s time to add the floaters. Tofu and green onions are classic. Shaved mushrooms are also nice. Thinly slice a few green onions. Place a block of tofu on a cutting board, stack some heavy plates on top, and angle the cutting board so that excess liquid in the tofu drains away. This will help the tofu absorb the miso soup’s flavor. Slice half of the tofu block into small cubes, and add them to the soup, along with the onions. Let the soup steam- never boil- for about 20-30 minutes.

Warming Miso Soup

To serve the miso soup, sprinkle a large pinch of wakame (dried seaweed) into the bottom of a small bowl, then ladle in the soup. Stir with the chopsticks, sip from the bowl, and pick out pieces…ahhh.

Shopping list:

  • Kombu- 4 pieces
  • Bonito flakes- 1 large handful
  • Miso paste- 5 tablespoons
  • Wakame
  • Green onions- 3-4
  • Tofu- 1/2 block
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Chili Warms the Soul

Chili Warms the Soul

Good riddance, 2015. Although there were some amazing highs (Japan, spending more time with family), the year was overwhelmed by fresh starts and steeped in loss. As silly as it sounds, bowls of chili, prepared by my mom and stashed in my refrigerator, served as buoys of well-being throughout some challenging months. I came up with my own take on her chili, and then devised a bunch of different ways to eat it. I am sure this chili will continue to feature itself in what I hope will be 2016: The year of the new normal.

Chili Warms the Soul

To make this chili, begin by soaking 1 cup of dried beans in water for about 8 hours. I used these pretty Orca beans. Then, add the soaked beans to a large pot of boiling, salted water, along with 2 bay leaves. Let the beans simmer for about 1 hour, until they are almost cooked (like al dente pasta), then drain them. Alternatively, you could skip this step and use 2 cans of the beans of your choice.

Chili Warms the Soul

Then, brown 2 pounds of ground beef in at least a 5 quart pot. While the beef browns, mince 2 garlic cloves and small dice 1 onion, 1 bell pepper, and 1 jalapeño. Once the beef mostly cooked through, transfer it to a side bowl and pour the liquid out of your pot.

Chili Warms the Soul

Drizzle some olive oil into the pot, and sweat the garlic, peppers, and onion. Once softened, add the ground beef back into the pot and season everything with salt and pepper. It’s time for the spices. Add in 1/2 cup of chili powder, 2 teaspoons of paprika, 1 tablespoon of cumin, and 1 teaspoon of oregano. Stir everything to evenly distribute the spices.

Chili Warms the Soul

Then, stir in 8 ounces of tomato sauce, 16 ounces of diced tomatoes, and 2 cups of water. Partially cover the pot, and simmer the chili for 30 minutes. Add your beans to the pot, partially cover, and simmer for another 30 minutes.

Chili Warms the Soul

When the chili is done cooking, add more salt and pepper to taste. If you’d like the chili to be spicier, mix in some cayenne pepper as well. This chili tastes even better after it has had a chance to rest in the refrigerator overnight. Here are some my favorite ways to serve it: in a bowl with crumbled tortilla chips; as a dip for tortilla chips; over a split baked potato with parsley and cheese; inside a halved roasted squash, such as delicata or acorn; over rice. I’m sure you can come up with a bunch more ways too! Freeze any extras for an easy, lazy-day dinner.

Shopping list:

  • Beans- 1 cup dried and 2 bay leaves, or 2 cans
  • Ground beef- 2 pounds
  • Onion- 1
  • Bell pepper- 1
  • Garlic- 2 cloves
  • Jalapeño- 1
  • Tomato sauce- 8 ounces
  • Diced tomatoes- 16 ounces
  • Olive oil
  • Chili powder- 1/2 cup
  • Paprika- 2 teaspoons
  • Cumin- 1 tablespoon
  • Oregano- 1 teaspoon
  • Salt and pepper
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