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Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Nani's Food Roots
Yesterday I cooked a bit of my roots and David and I enjoyed the fruits of that labor for lunch before he went to wo0rk today. David and I are the opposite side of the Green Acres coin from the old TV show. I grew up knowing what a McDonald’s hamburger tasted like, that restaurant by the bowling alley was where the family splurged for a good steak and fish was perch or trout that we caught ourselves when we were camping. Also, growing up a 20-minute drive away from my Noni, I had never ever thought about spaghetti sauce in a jar!
Mom had taken advantage of learning some cooking tricks from her Mother-in-law early on. Those tricks included tips for spaghetti sauce. Noni’s sauce was excellent, prepared different ways with different meats. She used ground or chopped beef, sometimes pork and during lent, tuna. She also often used peas and always mushrooms in her sauce. Noni’s “cheat” was sometimes a sprinkle of chicken base with the spices. Mom’s was always ground beef and while she used the mushrooms, never peas! Mom always picked the peas out of Noni’s sauce when we ate there. Her cheat was using Lawry’s packaged seasonings as her base and adding frm there. And yes, authentic homemade sauce simmers for a few hours to properly blend the flavors! That’s why “from a jar” is unthinkable!
For this past Christmas, my brother, Dave, canned a bunch of his sauce and gave it as gifts. Dave’s sauce is a little bit of Noni, Mom and Dad with his own touch. The biggest difference between Mom’s sauce and Dad’s is wine and Dad isn’t brand-loyal like Mom was to Lawry’s. Pop uses a bottle of wine when he makes sauce, about a third in the sauce and the rest in the cook! Dave’s sauce is more wine in the sauce and rest in the cook and his wife. Dave's sauce also has a little less ground beef than Mom’s did and he uses the peas. My brother’s sauce was good, but for my taste the wine was a little overkill. But it did make me think about Mom’s sauce and it gave me the bug to make my own.
David is not from that Italian background. He always made spaghetti with sauce from a jar with added ground beef. He uses a decent Eye-talian sauce, which is fine for a quick American spaghetti dinner and we do eat that at home. Note the distinction. Eye-talian is a common heard American mispronunciation of Italian and how I distinguish Italian influenced from actual Italian food. Yesterday, I made a pot of real Italian spaghetti sauce!
My sauce is a ground beef sauce and I used McCormick seasonings as a spice base for my cheat because I couldn’t find Lawry’s at the Kroger where I bought everything else. I added additional garlic powder, oregano and basil too. My signature in the prep comes at the very beginning; I start with a tablespoon of olive oil and brown two tablespoons of minced garlic and a chopped red onion before adding the ground beef to brown. Then I drain the grease off all of it to add with the tomato products and seasonings for cooking.
It turned out pretty good. Nah, forget the humble on this one; I was VERY pleased! There are a couple of small spice tweaks I want to do next time and I want to find the Lawry’s seasoning to put a little more of Mom in my sauce! The most important test was lunch. I like this sauce and prefer homemade to jar anyway. I can start the sauce at six and let it simmer until bedtime. It doesn't take hours of prep, just hours of simmer! The judgement from David was favorable, as long as I don't spice it up any more than it was today. YAY!
Now my brother has ideas that his sauce recipe should be kept a family secret and just passed down. I think that's mean - it puts pressure on people to make babies whether or not they want to so the recipe doesn't fade away. Besides, the cats don’t cook, although Baggle, our red-sauce nut, cleaned a plate after lunch and seemed to really like it!
So after some fine-tuning, I’ll be posting the recipe for my sauce at Davlicious Recipes. After all, nothing great will be remembered unless it’s shared!