Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Spaghetti (Squash) Sauce.

I may be stuffed to the gills, but that picture of the dinner I devoured five minutes ago is making my mouth water. Honestly, it was that good. (And yes, I did eat it sitting on my bed... are you pleased with the noticeable absence of the ugly kitchen? It won't last long, so don't get your hopes up!) I know that I've already waxed lyrical about the Spaghetti Squash, so as much as I'd love to go on a rant about it again, I'll curb my enthusiasm and talk about the sauce instead.

As I'd mentioned in the last post, I found that an ordinary tomato sauce (of the rich, heavily reduced variety) completely overpowered my poor squash. I decided that there were plenty of other ways to cook spaghetti squash, but the reality of it was that I still love the novelty of it looking like spaghetti. Even if, really, it doesn't look very much like spaghetti. So I decided to improve the sauce first, so that I could eat a bowl of this as though it really were pasta, and satisfy my inner carb-monster. My approach? Vegetables. Lots of them.

These were some of the beautiful green beans that I bought at the last Dom Markt. I buy these from my favourite lady, where they're usually about (Euro) 1.80 per kilo. The first time I bought them, I was a little enthusiastic, and went for a whole kilo. I'd obviously never seen how many beans make up a kilo, because jesus, was it a lot. So while I'm only buying them by the "ein halbes kilo, bitte" measurement, I've still got nothing but admiration for them. They stay crispy in the fridge (because they're so fresh), they're delicious, and you see that sprig of thyme? That was just a bit of the complimentary few stems that my market lady gave me.

Ok, I couldn't do this without a post of the ugly kitchen. It's sort of a tradition by now, you know? Ugly kitchen goes with ugly rustic food. But you see that sauce? It's chunky, it looks nothing like the bright-red mess that you buy in a jar, and it's the best thing I've made all week. (Especially because I wasn't satisfied with those oat cookies, but that's a story for another time.) Anyway, I decided that I was going to use vegetables to lighten the flavour. I also added red lentils, which add a nice earthiness to this sauce that I really love. I subsituted a few tablespoons of balsamic for my usual generous slug of red wine, to good effect. It's light, chunky, and rustic. And it's absolutely delicious.

See this? I get so excited by the leftover squash that I had to take a photo. I guess this really is how I'm documenting my life here. Sure, I write about it on another blog every so often, but I've already taken every imaginable picture related to the town and my room. Somehow, it's the day-to-day happenings in my kitchen that make me realise that so much time has passed. I've been here for six months, as of this Sunday. Six months! And to make it more real, I'm seeing my parents for the first time in those six months, as of 7:08pm tomorrow, which is when my train gets to Berlin. It's their first time in Europe, and I'm thrilled to see them. The older I get, the more I realise how awesome my parents are. So, this post is dedicated to the people who taught me how to cook: Mum, who taught me how to bake, and Dad, whose kitchen skills I surpassed as a pre-teen, but who showed me how to cover the tinned pasta sauce so that the microwave won't need to be cleaned. I might make my own these days, but I still hate the thought of cleaning a microwave... ;)
The measurements in this are approximate - feel free to substitute what you have on hand, or add more or less of something according to taste. I added a little chinese cabbage to mine because it needed using before I go to Berlin, and it still tasted delicious.

Red Lentil & Vegetable Pasta Sauce
500g tomatoes, roughly chopped (or use tinned equivalent)
2 large carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
300g green beans, sliced into 1cm lengths
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped/crushed
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp chilli paste (sambal oelek or siracha are both great)
1 & 1/4 cups red lentils
1/4 bunch basil, shredded
1/4 bunch parsley, chopped finely (I separate stems and leaves)
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar (i use raw, but whatever goes)
olive oil
salt and pepper
Cook red lentils in sufficient water until just tender, about 10 or so minutes. Drain.
Heat olive oil in a pot, then sautee celery and carrots until starting to soften, about 3 mins. Add garlic and green beans, cooking until garlic is soft.
Add tomatoes, sugar and balsamic vinegar, lowering the heat just a little so that you're simmering your sauce, not boiling it.
After about 5 minutes, add in the red lentils, tomato paste and chilli (and parsley stems if you're a bit OCD, like me), and allow to reduce to desired consistency. Mine took about another 5 minutes, but I think we all know that my stove isn't a reliable measure.
Finally, stir in your fresh herbs, generously add salt and pepper, and serve on squash or pasta of your choice. I think you can work out what my choice is...!

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