The Best Sounds of Summer

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photo 1The best sound of summer Is the sound of the “pop” jars make indicating that what you are canning has sealed.  I love that sound.  I canned 20 pints and 25 quarts of tomatoes last night.  They look beautiful all lined up on my counter.

I saved a little of the sauce to make homemade spaghetti sauce and oh my goodness.  I literally wept it was so good.  Was it the roma tomatoes I used?  Was it that I cooked the sauce low and slow for 2 days?  Perhaps the wine I used.  Whatever, it is awesome.

photo 4I grow my own herbs and I have learned a few tricks of the years.  I’m sure my heritage has something to do with it as I am Italian and Native American.  However, my mother was 100% Norwegian so who knows?  Maybe that stuff is just in your DNA.

The recipe is more of a story so I will tell you the story and summarize the recipe and ingredients at the end.

In a heavy pot I ad a bit of olive oil, enough to cover the 1/2 diced red onion.  Saute until the onion is soft.  So the first trick is the red onion.  They are sweeter and make the sauce less acidic.  The second trick is to use fresh herbs and fresh garlic.  The third trick is to put a handful of oregano and a handful or more of fresh basil in my Vitamix with the skinned garlic and a couple of scoops of sauce.  A quick blend saved me a lot of chopping and it melds the flavors together.

Pour that into the sauce pan with salt and pepper, the onions and add whatever red wine you have in the refrigerator to the mix.  I prefer a nice dry cabernet but I have used pinot noir and others as well.  Ina Garten always says “Only use wine in cooking that you would be willing to drink.”  Good advice from my hero.

photo 2Next add the tomato sauce and simmer, the longer the better but it is delicious right away too.  My family favorite is to add browned Italian sausage chunks, meatballs and pepperoni to the sauce.

When I cook the pasta I drain it and add a little bit of sauce to it.  I sprinkle a little parmesan or other hard Italian cheese on it and garnish it with fresh basil.

So for the recipe . . .

1/2 red onion

1/2 handful of fresh basil and oregano (you can use dried too–obvious not as much — to taste)

4 cloves of garlic

1 cup or so of red wine

2 quarts or so tomato sauce.  Homemade or canned

meatballs or sausage as you wish.

Easy peasy and delish!

Saving Summer . . . or should I say savoring summer?

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It’s been a crazy busy summer.  I spend a lot of time contemplating how I am going to suck the most that I can out of summer.  Spending time at the cottage, gardening, and traveling are just some of the things I try to pack in. The cooking is fabulous with all of the wonderful fresh produce available . . . a virtual cornucopia of choices.  My cottage happens to be in one of the most incredible fruit belts in Michigan and it is also the asparagus capital of the world.  I just drool at the thought of Stony Lake Inn deep fried asparagus.  Then the parade of fruits:  strawberries, blueberries, cherries, peaches and apples.  I love the little fruit and vegetable stands around here.  It is not summer without a trip to Cherry Point in Silver Lake or the Fox Barn Winery.  Whippy Dip or Country Dairy for ice cream, fresh butter and cheese.  Mac’s Meats for bacon and brisket.  Oceana County is a cooks paradise.

So what do you do when you have a refrigerator full of beautiful produce and you have an opportunity to leave the cottage to see your lovey loves–my grandbabies?  I’ve discovered that my Vitamix is my life saver!

Well, my Vitamix and my freezer.  After consulting the expert, my daughter Emily, I created what I call my smoothie starters.  Some savory, some sweet and some a combination of both.  I surveyed the refrigerator and took out everything that would not survive the trip.  I had kale, spinach, parsley, leeks, tomatoes, grapes (white and red), peaches, celery, carrots, blueberries and apples,

I took the tomatoes, parsley, celery, leeks and spinach and a 1/2 cup of water.  Pureed the heck out of it and frozen it in small plastic containers, labeled them and froze them.  Now when I am making a stew or soup or a smoothie I can whip one out and add it to whatever I am making.  Imagine someone dropping by at cocktail hour and you are caught without a snack.  Whip out a can of chick peas and a savory frozen bundle.  Add garlic and olive oil and there you got yourself a fabulous hummus.

Then the fruit.  I always add celery to my fruit smoothies.  It is such a refreshing flavor and so good for you.  I made several combinations and added kale to them all too.  Now, when I wake up in the morning I can whip up a great smoothie and I don’t have to add ice because my fruit is frozen.

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Label them well.  Throw in a little lemon or lime zest and coconut water, ice tea or any other fun liquid.  Enjoy a quick snack and a healthy summer.

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