Sauces, Glazes, Dressings & Garnishes
The past couple weeks have been pretty rough. Too much work, too little sleep. Too many errands and chores, too little relaxation. So this past weekend, I promised myself that I would do what I wanted to do. I refused to do any work; I refused to do chores or errands. It was all about me.
The weekend ended up being packed. I went for a walk with a friend. I made strawberry muffins for Stampin’ Up, and at Stampin’ Up, I made Christmas cards (Christmas in August). I went out to dinner and drinks and to see Wicked in the city. And then, since I’ve been craving warm, cozy meals (hopefully thinking that the heat would finally break), I spent the day making marinara sauce, two batches of veggie lasagna, ziti with spinach and spicy Italian sausage, and homemade focaccia bread. (Stay tuned for recipes this week). This was lunch, dinner and dessert for the week as well as breakfast and lunch for the “Bakery.”
The below marinara sauce was the base for the weekend’s cooking. It’s taken me a while to perfect it. I loved my mom’s marinara sauce, but her recipe wasn’t very helpful when I first started cooking – a list of ingredients to add “to taste.” I ended up taking her recipe and a couple of others, building and adapting until I found a combination I was happy with. Now, I’ve made the sauce so many times that I really can go by taste, without a recipe, but I wrote the proportions down, just for you. The recipe is easily multiplied and freezes well.
By Books n’ Cooks
- 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 onion, small dice
- 2 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 14 oz. water
- 1 6-oz. cans tomato paste
- 1/2 Tbs. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1 Tbs. dried basil
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. fennel seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Tbs. sugar
* May add dried parsley, red pepper flakes, additional herbs and seasonings according to preference.
In a medium-large sauce pan over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add onions and garlic, stirring and sauteing until translucent. Add crushed tomatoes, water (I fill the empty tomato can halfway with water, swirl to get remaining tomato bits), and tomato paste. Stir and let heat for a few minutes. Add remaining ingredients. When sauce is warm, taste and add additional herbs if needed. (I love the basil and fennel and typically have a heavy hand with those.)
When heated and starting to bubble, lower heat and let simmer for 2 hours. Pull out bay leaf before serving.
This is a big year for many of my friends – the bit 3-0. Everyone is choosing a different way to celebrate. We had a ladies weekend at the spa for the first 30th birthday of the year, enjoying massages, pedicures, wraps, and the like for one friend’s birthday. For the second and most recent birthday, another friend hosted a birthday BBQ and asked K and I to bake her cupcakes. We were excited to provide dessert for the BBQ and the three of us made a night out of baking. We had a great night munching on a tomato-mozzarella tartlet, drinking limoncello cosmopolitans (had to beg a neighbor for ice), and baking up a storm. For the celebration, we made Cosmo Cupcakes and Lemon-Limoncello Cupcakes or what K’s friend fondly dubbed “boozecakes.”
In the spirit of “go big or go home,” I decided to garnish my Limoncello Cupcakes with slices of candied lemon. These sweets were easy to make, but did take a while. It took about two days before the syrup to dry enough for me to handle them. Completely worth it. Like any good cook, I had to try the lemon slices before serving… again and again and again. They’re very sweet, with a slightly stronger taste in the candied rind, and set on top of a cupcake, make a striking presentation. Not going to lie, I was also eating the leftover lemon syrup with a spoon (but would probably be a great addition to a hot or sweet tea or mixed drink).
Candied Lemon Slices
Adapted from Use Real Butter
Makes 1-3 dozen slices
- 1-3 lemons
- 2 c. sugar
Cut lemons into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick, 10-12 slices per lemon. If the slices tear easily, they’re too thin.
In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, prepare an ice bath and set aside. When water is boiling, blanch lemons for 1 minute. Remove with a strainer and plunge into ice bath to stop the cooking.
In another medium saucepan (or the one you just used) over medium heat, bring 1 c. water and the sugar to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Lower to a simmer and add lemon slices. Simmer for 1-2 hours (I did about 90 minutes).
As water boils, set a wire cooling rack over a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
With a set of tongs, remove slices from syrup, allowing excess sugar to drop off, and set on a wire rack to dry. This may take up to 48 hours.
Adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Family Style
- 1 c. seedless raspberry jelly
- 3 half-pints fresh raspberries
To make the topping, melt the jelly in a small pan over low heat. In a bowl, toss the raspberries and the warm jelly gently until well mixed.
Serve over cheesecake, a chocolate torte (like this chocolate mousse cake), pancakes, or biscuits. If you have any other suggestions, please share!
I’m the type of person that can eat pasta all year round. Maybe it’s my Italian roots, but pasta is never off the table as a dinner option. While pasta with meat sauce (my lazy version of bolognese) is the most common pasta I make because it’s super easy and doesn’t require a lot of hands-on time (essential for weeknight cooking), I do love to experiment with other recipes.
This recipe is a long-time family favorite of ours. It is a bit lighter than the tomato-based sauces I favor, making it perfect for any time of the year. In fact, I make it most frequently during the summer when my garden is producing more sage than I know what to do with. This recipe cooks up fairly quick, is forgiving in the quantities of ingredients used, and is bright with flavor. It also scales really well, when we are entertaining and need to feed a crowd. Besides, a little leftovers never hurt – they never last long in my house.
Chicken Scaloppini Saltimbocca
served with French Bread and Sage Butter
Adapted from Veal Scaloppini Saltimbocca Bon Appetit, Sept 2002
Ingredients for Chicken Scaloppini Saltimbocca
- 1 box spaghetti
- 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 c. white cornmeal
- 1 Tbs. herbes de Provence
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 1 to 1 1/2 lb. chicken cutlets, cut into chunks (or, pounded thinly and then sliced)
- 1/2 c. (about 4 oz.) thinly chopped prosciutto
- 1/3 c. chopped fresh or frozen sage (see recipe note below for information on preserving and using frozen sage)
- 1/2 c. dry Marsala wine
- 1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/4 c. butter (1/2 a stick)
Mix cornmeal, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper in a large ziplock bag. Seal and shake to mix thoroughly. Add chicken and shake again, ensuring that all pieces are coated.
Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add chicken, prosciutto, and sage. Saute.
Meanwhile, start boiling a pot of water for the spaghetti, and cook according to package. If finished before the chicken, toss with olive oil and keep warm.
When chicken is browned and cooked, add Marsala wine, chicken broth, and butter. Reduce.
Toss chicken and sauce with spaghetti.
Serve hot sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired, with a side of French Bread and Sage Butter (recipe below).
Recipe Notes & Tips:
- Feel free to adjust quantities of chicken, sage, and prosciutto to taste. I like more sage and prosciutto than the original recipe calls for, but tend to use whatever is in a package.
- Preserving Sage: This particular recipe does well with fresh or frozen sage. When my herbs are overflowing in the summer (or maybe you just didn’t finish the package you had bought for another recipe), I trim them back and freeze the sage leaves to be used in this recipe (as well as these Blood Orange Sage Vodka Sodas). To freeze, place sage – cleaned with stems removed – in a single layer on a wax or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Freeze for 24-48 hours. Transfer to an airtight freezer bag until further use. To use, remove sage from freezer. Chop when still frozen. Use in recipe as directed (still frozen or defrosted are both fine.)
- 1-2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
- 1 stick butter, softened
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
Combine all ingredients so that butter is well mixed.
Sage Butter will keep for a week or two in the fridge.
From: Fine Cooking No. 96
Yields: 1 cup
- 1 c. sour cream
- 1/4 c. prepared horseradish or finely grated fresh horseradish
- 1 tsp. white vinegar
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp. black pepper
Combine all ingredients.
Taste. Add salt and pepper if needed. For a little extra kick, we added an extra tablespoon of horseradish.
May be refrigerated for at least 3 days.
Serve with beef tenderloin, such as a Fennel & Rosemary Crusted Beef Tenderloin.