Growing up in California, grilling was a year-round experience. Here in Seattle, grilling is much more pleasant in the summer and early autumn. This summer, sadly, the temperature hasn’t gotten about 75 yet. So this California girl stares out the window, watching it drizzle and dreams of tortilla chips and guacamole on a sunny porch, tanned legs, and clinking cocktail glasses. Oh, it isn’t all bad in Seattle, I promise. We have beautiful springs full of cherry blossoms, but nothing will take the place of those too-hot California summers in my head. In spite of Seattle’s sunless skies, I decided that I was barbecuing, even if it was pouring outside. I invited friends, who brought over yummy vegetables to grill, and I decided to try Phyllis Diller’s recipe for barbecued chicken.
It’s a simple recipe for barbecue sauce, but it was tangy, spicy, sweet, and received rave reviews from the entire group. A few recipe notes: I used ketchup that had no high-fructose corn syrup and, instead of hot pepper sauce, I used 4 liberal squirts of sriracha since I like my barbecue sauce on the spicy side.
So, while Seattle doesn’t have many sunny days, I can still eat barbecued chicken and lick my fingers like I did during my childhood. And this time, my mother wasn’t there to give me the “you’re being rude at the dinner table” look!
I don’t know about you, but I am always in need of quick, weekday meals. Since my mom gave Kevin and me a copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day we usually have some dough chillin’ in the fridge. Lately, we’ve been rolling out the dough from the original recipe and making pizza crusts. After a quick preheat, lunch or dinner is ready in a matter of minutes! There’s only one problem: I’ve always been on the fence about prepared pizza sauce, and when I tried experimenting on my own, my sauces were runny or flavorless, so I always caved in to convenience and bought the over-priced pizza sauce at the store even though I knew it was something I could make on my own.
Enter the California Heritage Cookbook’s recipe for pizza sauce. It’s one of the few vintage cookbooks I own that has a recipe for pizza, so I decided to put it to the test. Well, I will never buy pizza sauce again. This recipe yielded a thick sauce that was both sweet and spicy. And, it freezes perfectly too! Take that, Thursday evenings.
(adapted from The California Heritage Cookbook, c. 1976)
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 28 oz. can tomato puree
1 12 oz. can tomato paste
1 tbsp. of each of the following fresh herbs, chopped: fresh oregano, basil, thyme, and parsley
1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1. Sauté garlic and onion in olive oil on medium heat for 5 minutes, or until soft.
2. Add tomato puree and paste and cook over low heat for another 10 minutes.
3. Add herbs and pepper flakes and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
4. Spread on pizza dough along with your favorite toppings. (We had fresh mozzarella and prosciutto.)
5. Freeze any extra sauce for up to 2 months.
I know that the title of this post is an oxymoron, but that’s how I feel about Pasta e Fagioli. It’s a simple, yet hearty dish, but with a few additions, its the type of meal that looks beautiful and modern, while satisfying almost everyone around the table. Most of the recipes I saw in my research were for a soup, but not the one from The Vintage Epicure, which is the base recipe I used for my version. You’ll see that I couldn’t resist putting bacon in mine, but one could easily leave it out and use olive oil without losing much flavor.
This dish turned out to be a powerhouse. Not only did it feed Kevin and me for three nights, each evening the flavors became even more lovely and complex. We both decided that this recipe will definitely become a staple in our house.
Pasta e Fagioli
(very loosely adapted from The Vegetarian Epicure) serves 6
1.5 cups dried beans (I used a mixture of beans that included kidney, black, and navy beans as well as some lentils)
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 large carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 slices bacon, drippings reserved
1 tsp. oregano and basil, chopped
1 medium can diced tomatoes
1 lb. elbow macaroni (or whatever pasta you’d like!)
2 tbsp. parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
1. Combine beans with 6 cups of water and soak overnight.
2. The next day, pour beans and liquid into a dutch oven along with 1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 cup olive oil, bay leaves, and garlic cloves. Simmer beans until they are tender–about 2 or 3 hours. When the beans are tender, discard bay leaf and smash garlic cloves with a spoon until they are incorporated into the bean mixture. At this point, the beans should have some extra liquid–about the consistency of a hearty stew.
3. Cook bacon and set aside, reserving bacon drippings.
4. Dice onions, celery, and carrots and sauté in bacon drippings for 10 minutes. Add basil and oregano and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add to bean mixture. At this point, add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Cook pasta in boiling water as directed on package. Drain pasta and add to bean mixture.
6. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, and finely-chopped bacon.