Deadly Green Sauce

This is the hottest thing I’ve posted here, so if you think some of my other recipes are too spicy, buckle up your safety harness ’cause this is rocket fuel (though the formula can be used with other, milder, peppers, if you prefer). It’s an authentic Mexican recipe and too hot to make often. But it really has a great jalapeño flavor, once your taste buds have adjusted to the assault. I also like the way it handles the jalapeños; you don’t have to use gloves or burn your fingers on chopping jalapeños. This is a good way to use up your heavy-bearing pepper plants in the summer. It’s a very, very, basic recipe. Fast and easy.

  • 15-20 whole jalapeño
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 small onion, sliced (it doesn’t matter how thick or thin)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Put the tomato, jalapeños, and onion into a saucepan and simmer until the peppers are done. Test the peppers with a fork; they’re done when they’re soft. Scoop out the tomato, onions, and peppers with a slotted spoon, reserving the liquid. Put the vegetables into a blender and add the garlic powder and 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Blend until homogeneous. If the sauce is too thick, add more juice. Cool. Serve with chips. Warn your friends!

Terrific alternatives: As I mentioned above, this is a pretty basic recipe and if the idea of packing that many jalapeños into sauce horrifies you, there are less dangerous alternatives. There is a milder variety of jalapeño called the TAM jalapeño (developed at Texas A&M). If you want something hotter, try using habeñeros (though you might need to use fewer of them). I honestly wouldn’t want to recommend it because I don’t want you to hurt yourself. This jalapeño recipe ought to be more than hot enough for most people. This is a good formula for making a cooked chile pepper sauce. Try other types of peppers with different flavors and levels of hotness. You’ll need to guestimate how many to use since they’ll be a different size than the peppers used in the recipe. Choose a pepper (or assortment of chiles) you like the flavor of because this is mostly cooked pureed pepper, so that will completely dominate the flavor. It’s also a good way create your own custom salsa; experiment with mixing a variety of peppers until you get the blend of hotness and flavor you want.

At this point you may be curious what my own custom salsa recipe looks like. I should probably come up with one, but what I usually do is just fake my way through with whatever peppers I have on hand in the garden, which varies throughout the summer and from year to year. There was one year in which I let the jalapeños and a few other chile peppers (7 varieties total) ripen all the way to red…and it was an unusually hot summer where I lived at the time (temps over 100 on a daily basis, which results in hotter peppers). I showed up at a friend’s house bearing a container of sauce that stopped him dead in his tracks. “That’s a scary shade of red,” he said. It was, indeed. We emptied his cupboards of tomato sauce trying to dilute it down enough to use as an enchilada sauce. It was great, but we couldn’t really see the food because our eyes were watering so much! So, if you grow your own ingredients for this, be aware that letting chiles ripen all the way to red will result in a hotter pepper, and places with hotter climates will produce hotter peppers than places with milder summers. Mix and match with whatever you’ve got on hand from the garden or whatever is available from the supermarket. Summer through early fall is prime time for peppers. Experiment and enjoy!

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When The Cupboard Is Bare: Fast and Spicy Pasta Sauce

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Hot, hearty, spicy, fast, easy, and delicious! What more could you want?

This is another of my “cupboard is bare” improvisations. There are a few things I’d recommend having on hand to keep from having absolutely no options when you need a fast flavorful hearty meal. Find a spice blend that’s not part of your usual flavor palette. In this case I’m using saté, a flavor combination which is Indonesian in origin. Having some blend that’s not your usual Italian, Mexican, Whatever, is a nice change of pace and can make those hasty “cupboard is bare” meals into something special. For this reason I keep not only saté, but also a Turkish seasoning blend from Penzys on hand.

I don’t generally recommend spice blends because over-reliance on them will result in everything tasting the same. Also, some spice blends include salt, which is not good if you need to restrict salt intake, but also in general it’s not good to have pre-added salt because it can potentially throw things off depending on what you’re making. But…it’s good to have one or two blends that you don’t use excessively — and which you can tweak by adding other seasonings. (If you need to restrict salt intake, look for blends with no salt; these days lots of companies — including Penzys — formulate no-salt options for at least some blends.)

Another thing I recommend keeping on hand is a lot of different flavors of pasta. Pasta cooks quickly and it’s filling. Flavored pastas are often colorful, too. What to put on it? Please, please, stock tomato paste in your pantry in addition to tomato sauce. Tomato paste is basically concentrated tomato sauce. Stocking it means that you can control the thickness of the sauce, so for fast meals when you want a thick sauce it doesn’t take as long to cook down to desired consistency. But stocking it in addition to tomato sauce means that you can still make sauce, even when you’re out of sauce! It’s also handy for thickening up a pasta sauce that’s too thin. When I use canned diced tomatoes for sauce I add tomato paste to give me a better thickness and texture to the sauce. So stock some small cans of tomato paste! They’re unbelievably handy!

For this recipe I used Penzys saté (which does have salt), paired with some complementary seasonings. For pasta I used a half bag of Al Dente Spicy Sesame Linguini. (I had more pasta than sauce.) It is not, to my palate, very spicy…though their red chili fettuccine is. So, you might want to omit the pinch of red pepper if using a spicier pasta than the Sesame. Or omit the red pepper if you’re leery of spicy-hot food. The saté seasoning has spiciness built in to it, so additional red pepper is optional and really a matter of whether you want this spicy or hot. The seasonings I used will still give you a very flavorful somewhat spicy sauce, with no additional red pepper added.

Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway) you can make a better version of this if using fresh mushrooms sautéd in a small amount of oil prior to throwing the sauce together. And adding more water and simmering this longer will allow the flavors to meld even more. But this is the fast version for those nights before the grocery shopping trip, or when for whatever reason (getting home late) you realize that you just don’t have the time or energy to do some more elaborate thing you’d planned. There’s no reason you can’t have a great tasty meal even if you have little time and few ingredients. Don’t settle for a can of something! Keep a special seasoning blend, tomato paste, and an assortment of pastas in your pantry. Don’t ever let those basics run out!

This makes enough for two generous servings. Increase sauce ingredients to make more.

1/2 tsp saté
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp tumeric
Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 4oz can mushrooms, sliced or pieces
12 pieces Simple Truth Meatless Griller strips
Al Dente Spicy Sesame Linguini or other quickly cooking pasta.

Mix all the sauce ingredients, including the griller strips, in a saucepan. Add at least one can of water to the paste. You may need to add more. (I did.) Cook until the sauce is to the desired consistency and the griller strips are done. The griller strips package has a recommended temperature for cooking. Since the strips are frozen, make sure you simmer them long enough to cook them!

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. What will take the most time is getting the water to a boil, especially if you use a large pot, which I recommend to help avoid boil overs.

Serve sauce over pasta. Leftover vegetables can be served as a side dish. Or you can steam some in the microwave while waiting for the pasta water to boil.

Italian Sausage

My 16-year-old nephew, a fantastic cook, stopped by last month for a cooking day with me and Boyfriend.  We thought it would be interesting for Chef D to cook a vegan dish completely from scratch and found this pizza recipe for him to prepare.  It was labour intensive, but Chef D dug right in resulting in a pizza that was unbelievably yummy.

pizza by duncan

The most fascinating element of this recipe was the making of the Italian sausage.  The use of walnuts instead of a meat-substitute had me convinced this “sausage” was not going to work.  Happily, I was wrong, wrong, wrong – the texture and taste are no different from meat sausage.  You don’t actually make this a link sausage, rather it is more like ground sausage in its appearance and it is easily crumbled onto the pizza.

italian sausage

Sausage ingredients (as seen in the link provided):

  • 1 cup dry walnuts
  •  1 small clove garlic, peeled
  •  2 tablespoons tamari
  •  2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  •  1 teaspoon dried basil
  •  ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  •  ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  •  ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Combine the walnuts and garlic in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Add all remaining sausage ingredients and pulse until well‐combined.

Boyfriend has since made the sausage using walnut, pecan, garlic, tamari, oregano, basil, fennel seed, crushed chili, paprika, and balsamic vinegar (it is always good to know you can make substitutions on a moment’s notice).  It only takes about two minutes to make this sausage and you can add it to anything – use it in spaghetti sauce, as a sandwich spread, or add it to a green salad for that extra zap of flavour.

By the way, we didn’t make the cheese for the pizza as per the recipe because of time constraints.  Instead, we used our standby nutritional yeast sauce.  We finished the day with vegan ginger snaps (made by yours truly) and homemade vegan ice cream (made by Boyfriend).  A lovely day, with lovely food, with a lovely nephew!

Homemade Tomato Sauce

quinoa, amaranth, and brown rice pasta with homemade tomato sauceOnce again, a lovely meal was thrown together by the Boyfriend – quinoa, amaranth, and brown rice pasta topped with homemade tomato sauce.  While I am more of a follow-the-recipe type of girl when it comes to sauces, he is willing to take whatever is in the fridge and throw it in the food processor.  So far, he’s done everything right and hasn’t made a bad meal yet.  🙂

You will need:

  • 5 tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 shallot

Toss these ingredients in a food processor and process until you have a nice, smooth mixture.

You will also need:

  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • nutritional yeast (to taste)
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • smoked paprika (to taste)
  • small tin of tomato paste

In a saucepan, heat up the coconut oil (not too hot).  Now add the ingredients from the food processor PLUS the remaining ingredients listed above.  Start with small amounts of each ingredient until the tomato sauce is to your liking.  Easy peasy!

This made more than enough sauce for two people, so the next day Boyfriend varied it slightly.  He added almond milk and some additional nutritional yeast.  This made for a lovely creamy pasta sauce and cut down on some of acidity of the tomatoes and the garlic.