For The Love of Garlic

“This dish has too much garlic.”

That is a phrase never uttered in my house. Maybe it is because I am part Italian, but I LOVE garlic. The scent of garlic cooking is a scent that will always make my mouth water. Except maybe dessert, although I have heard there is garlic ice cream, I can’t think of a dish that isn’t made better with garlic.  There is a Garlic Festival in Gilroy, CA, and pretty sure it is on my bucket list. Needless to say I love garlic, thankfully I live with someone who loves garlic as much as I do, so there is no awkward garlic breath moments.

My name is Ryan, and I am addicted to garlic…

One of my favorite things to make with garlic is my Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce, which is my go to anytime I need a pasta sauce. This sauce is super simple to make and can be made with just a few ingredients. Once you know how to make your own pasta sauce there is no reason to buy jarred sauce.  If you have a can of tomatoes, some aromatics (onions, garlic, etc.), some herbs (dried are fine), oil, and an hour to spare you can make a pasta sauce that will almost always rival a jar of pasta sauce you can buy at the grocery store.

The great thing about homemade sauce is that it is mostly hands-off prep time, add your ingredients to a pot, stir every 15 or 20 minutes and let time work it’s magic. Added bonus, tomato sauce freezes wonderfully, so next time canned tomatoes are on sale you can stock up!  This is one of these recipes where canned items are actually superior to fresh. Fresh tomatoes are delicious, but without a food mill or the patience to blanch, seed, and crush fresh tomatoes, it can be a pain to make pasta sauce. When using canned tomatoes make sure you taste, because some tomatoes can have a “tinny” taste that can make your sauce taste acidic. If you have an acidic sauce add 1 teaspoon of sugar and cook for another 5 or 10 minutes; you don’t want the sauce to taste sweet, you are just trying to take the “tang” out of the sauce.

Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce

Makes About 1 Quart of Sauce

Ingredients

  • 8 – 10 cloves garlic, minced or ran through a garlic press
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes or pureed tomatoes (if you want a smoother sauce)
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar (optional, taste to see if the sauce is too acidic)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (optional, but I HIGHLY recommend this, it is my secret ingredient to adding depth to the sauce)
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Add your minced or pressed garlic to a saucepan with the olive oil (smaller the better) over LOW heat; do not burn the garlic, it will get bitter. You want the oil to slightly cover the garlic.

2. Stir in your salt and slowly poach the garlic in the oil for 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the garlic and make sure it doesn’t get too brown.

3. After the garlic is done, add the canned tomatoes to a dutch oven, pasta pot or a deep skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and garlic-infused oil to the tomatoes and stir to combine. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the italian seasoning.

Canned tomatoes before adding the garlic and garlic oil.

4. Cook over medium-low heat for 25-30 minutes and taste, adding sugar if needed.  Cook for another 5-10 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and let cook for another 10 minutes or so. The balsamic beautifully rounds out the sauce. As long as the sauce remains over low heat, you can keep cooking it until it gets to the taste and thickness you desire, adding salt and pepper to taste.  The sauce is incredible over pasta, ravioli, sandwiches or frozen for storage.

Sauce after about 45 minutes of cooking. Stir to incorporate the garlic oil.

Roasted Garlic Sauce over Homemade Wonton Pea Ravioli

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Demystifying Risotto

Risotto

If you have ever watched a “reality” cooking show like Hell’s Kitchen or MasterChef you would think that risotto is some impossible dish that is associated with fancy restaurants and takes hours over a hot stove while some chef is yelling in your ear.  In reality, risotto is one of the most popular ways to cook rice in Italy and is something most Italian home cooks can make in their sleep. Knowing how to make risotto is a great thing to have in your toolbox, as it is easy, endlessly flexible and never fails to elicit oohs and ahhs from your dinner companions.

Risotto has gained a reputation recently of being expensive, fussy and time consuming. Once you have all of your ingredients in place you can have a satisfying plate of risotto on the table in less than 30 minutes, and usually closer to 20 minutes. The key to risotto is making sure everything is ready to go before adding anything to the pan. Risotto requires a fair amount of attention and stirring, and you won’t have time to chop veggies, grate cheese, etc. once you start this process.

You should think of risotto as more of a technique instead of a static recipe. Once you understand the technique, you can add mushrooms, vegetables, proteins (such as shrimp, italian sausage, tempeh) and have a whole roster of dishes at your fingertips. The basic blueprint for risotto is (1) saute up aromatics (onion, garlic, herbs) in fat (butter, olive oil), (2) add the rice to the pan and stir, coating the grains in the oil, lightly toasting the rice, (3) slowly adding warm broth to the rice and stirring, and (4) add your mix-ins.

Basic Risotto

4 – 6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups of arborio rice (sometimes simply labeled as risotto rice)
  • 1/2 cup white wine (as long as it isn’t a sweet white like moscato or a dessert wine; I used risling)
  • 6 cups stock, warmed over low heat (vegetable, chicken, seafood; aim for something fairly light, not a heavy beef stock)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup cheese (parmesan is the classic here)

1. Make sure everything is chopped and your stock is being warmed in a medium saucepan over low heat

2. Heat a high-sided pan with a large bottom (10-inch skillet, dutch oven, etc.) over medium heat. Melt the butter and add the onion to the pan. Sauté for 3-5 minutes until the onion softens and turns translucent. Add garlic and any other seasonings (italian seasoning), along with salt and pepper and cook for another minute until fragrant.

3. Add your rice to the onion and garlic mix, stir until the grains are nice and coated with the butter. Add more if needed, the grains need a nice coating. Stir until the ends are translucent and the middle is still opaque. The rice should have a nice toasty scent.

Nicely coated and toasty rice

4. Add the wine to pan, stirring and deglazing the pan. Simmer and stir until the wine is reduced and the pan is dry.

5. Add the warm broth to the rice, one ladle at a time. Stirring until the rice has absorbed the broth, then adding another ladle. Don’t rush this step as this slow adding of the broth is what cooks the rice and releases the starch in the rice. This starch creates the nice creamy texture that risotto is loved for.  Begin to taste your rice after about 15 minutes, the rice should have a bit of a chew and a thick creamy consistency. Traditionally the consistency is described as “all’onda”, wavy or flowing in waves.

6. As a final step, add and gently stir in an additional ladle of broth, the cheese and your cooked mix-ins. If you want to add some additional richness, feel free to add another tablespoon of butter. Serve immediately.

                    Don’t rush and flood your rice with broth

When the broth is mostly absorbed add another ladle

Take your time and you will be rewarded with this wonderful creaminess!