Sunday, August 4, 2013

Perfect Summer Garden Marinara

This is the raddest mid-summer pasta sauce you will ever make. Enough said. 

Don't have a garden? No problem. Head to the Farmers' Market and buy a big bunch of local (preferably heirloom) tomatoes. Mid winter? Substitute a 28-ounce can of whole San Marazano tomatoes and a couple tablespoons of raw sugar. Now stop making excuses and get into the kitchen! (And plant a garden next year!)

Prep time: 1-2 cocktails

24 ounces fresh garden or Farmers' Market tomatoes
½ cup loosely packed fresh basil
¼ cup loosely packed fresh oregano leaves
½ tsp ground dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Red chili flakes to taste (optional)
5 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup herb-infused olive oil (omit the garlic in the recipe)

Place all ingredients except herb-infused oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium low, add infused olive oil. Simmer, uncovered until you have reached pasta sauce consistency, usually about 30-60 minute, stirring frequently.

Herb-Infused Olive Oil

This is a simple and awesome preparation that makes for a great stand-alone dip for bread, a good substitution for normal oil in homemade mayonnaise, and is a home run in homemade marinara.

You can also use other fresh herbs instead of (or in addition to) oregano... I love basil, arugula, parsley, rosemary, and even a bit of thyme or dill. Because I'm crazy like that. Fuck yeah. 

Prep time: 1 cocktail

1/3 cup good cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
1 head of garlic, cloves separated BUT NOT peeled (optional)
1 very big handful FRESH oregano, leaves off the stalk, but not chopped
2-3 pinches salt (or to taste)

Put the oil in an 8" frying pan. If you're using a larger pan, you'll have to make a bigger batch. The oil must have a minimum thickness in the pan of about 1/4 - 3/8 inches. So if you're using a 10" or 12" pan, scale up your oil.

Heat the oil on medium-low heat. When the oil is hot, add herbs and garlic. Toss well. If necessary, adjust the heat as low as you can go. You want the oil to be just hot enough so that the garlic is barely sizzling… No hotter.

After a few minutes, add salt.

Stir every few minutes. Garlic is done when it becomes very soft. Depending on size and age of garlic this can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. Remove the garlic. You can continue cooking herbs as long as you like. The longer you cook them, the richer the oil becomes. I've cooked the herbs and for oil for over an hour with great results. The herbs will become crisp and appear burned; don't worry—they're fine!

After removing, you can peel the 'roasted' garlic. You can spread the garlic on bread almost like butter, put it whole on pizza, or just eat it plain.

There's no need to remove the herbs, though you may wish to crush them up with a wooden spoon or by hand after it cools a bit.