Sunday, February 21, 2010

Check out this site....

I recently discovered Barbara Lewis' website/blog through a fellow lampworker.  Once I checked out her stuff I fell in love and am determined to get an enamelling class under my belt (like I really need more hobbies, right??)

In any case, Barbara recently upgraded/updated her blog and I'm telling you, you should check it out.  Her blog is Painting With Fire Artwear

I'm hoping that I'm one of the lucky ones who gets their name pulled for one of the awesome giveaways she's doing!!

It's beautiful outside today.  Finally some sun and warmer temps.  We're off for Thai food and then a day of R&R.  Life is indeed good!

Hope you're having a good one wherever you are :)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Taste test results

Surprisingly both Kev and I preferred the Rao's.  Not sure what happened as I was all ready to pick the Cento without even tasting but after cooking the Rao's is definitely more zippy and tomato tasting.  The Cento mellowed out and didn't have the acidity that I expected it to.  Not that it's bad.  For today the Rao's is the winner but, as I said before, I wouldn't hesitate to use either of these brands in the future :)

The tomato quest finale!

I think today will be the last of the tests and comparisons.  Today we're pitting Cento D.O.P against the Rao's. On initial opening both appear very similar. Both are packed in puree and a nice, rich red. To the nose the Cento is a little more "bright" - so says Kev and I have to agree.  It smells maybe a little more acidic, not quite as deep as the Rao's.

So off into two pots with an onion and the requisite butter.  The simmering is almost done.  Quick observations - the Cento appears to be less watery during cooking.  The overall color of both sauces is remarkably similar.  We'll have to do the taste test shortly to see which brand we'll wind up sticking with.  Either way I think either of these brands will do and will depend on what's on sale at the local grocers.  Today Rao's was on sale at our local Fresh Market at $3.49/can so I stocked up.

Check back for the official taste-test results :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Tomato Quest....part deux

The latest in my quest to consume the most amount of tomato sauce that one human can possible consume in a week :D

Nah...not really...but I am on a quest to find out if it's the San Marzano tomatoes that really make the sauce.

On a crazy shopping expedition one night not too long ago Kev and I drove around to just about every grocery store we could think of and bought pretty much every brand of canned San Marzano tomatoes.  So far the conclusion is that Cento D.O.P is the way to go.

Now comes this particular brand.  Rao's.  I think we found this one at either Whole Foods or Fresh Market (wish I woulda kept closer track). In any case, on opening I was happily surprised to find nice, dark red, tomatoes in puree.  I think part of what also makes the sauce so great is if it already comes in puree. Others may just be canned in juice so won't be as rich or thick after cooking.  Anyhow...I'm happy to report that after an hour of simmering with the requisite onion and butter this particular sauce tastes just as yummy as the Cento.  The true test would have been if I'd cooked them side by side but I've got to stop producing so much tomato sauce :D

I would definitely use either this brand of the Cento in a heartbeat.  The house smells yummy and I'm geared up for some simple pasta tonight!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The tomato quest continues!

Now that I'm totally addicted to this simple tomato sauce I've been trying to figure out if any old canned tomatoes will do. In my previous attempt it was painfully obvious that the generic stuff at my grocery store would not do. After some research it appeared that maybe I had to limit my testing to San Marzano tomatoes. The original receipe called for these tomatoes and that's what I used the first time around.

So, off to the grocery store I went. Seems that there are San Marzano tomatoes that are imported directly from Italy (look for the D.O.P stamp) and then there are San Marzano varieties that are grown domestically. In my second attempt I tried the USA San Marzanos. Close in color but no where close in flavour. now I'm thinking I need to do a relatively scientific comparison. Off to the grocery store I go again (actually I think I scoped out 3 stores) and come home with the original Cento D.O.P and a couple of other brands that are all imported from Italy.

Today's experiment pits Cento D.O.P against Zia Rosa, also D.O.P

On initial inspection the color looks to be about the same. The consistency of the Cento looks thicker. The Cento smells fuller and maybe a little sweeter. I think the Zia Rosa may smell a little more acidic.

The true test will be at the end when we do the taste test :)

Both cans go into separate pots where one onion and 5Tbsps of butter go in and the simmering begins. An hour later the tomatoes have been broken down and the sauce is ready to go. The taste test says Cento is still the way to go. It's sweeter, slightly thicker, and more tomato-ey. The Zia Rosa isn't far off but is less full flavour-wise and isn't as rich bodied. I think it's just a little watery compared to the Cento.

Nevertheless it's all still good and now I have two batches of sauce that will tie me over until...oh, maybe Monday?? I still have two other cans of tomatoes that will undergo the same testing. It'll be interesting to see if anything measures up to the Cento.

While the sauce was on the stove I was busy knitting up some cotton dishcloths. Will show a picture of those when they're done :)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

All tomatoes are not created equal....

This I found out when I substituted a fairly common brand of whole peeled tomatoes in a recipe that recommended San Marzano tomatoes. But different can a can of tomatoes be? The color, the sweetness, the ripeness was all "off" in the cheapo brand. I went to the grocery store today to buy another can of the "right" stuff and I couldn't believe my eyes. The freakin' can was $6.99!! Now I know I didn't pay that price the first time. Or at least I don't think I did?!? I just know I was looking for San Marzano tomatoes and picked up the first can I saw. Maybe I did wind up paying the premium but now that I've tasted the difference I think it's worth it.

Here's some interesting info about San Marzano tomatoes.

Now go out, buy yourself some San Marzano tomatoes (I bought Cento) and make yourself this totally yummalishious sauce. I guarantee you'll fall in love!!

Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onions
Adapted from Marcela Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking

Serves 4 as a main course; makes enough sauce to lightly coat most of a pound of spaghetti

28 ounces (800 grams) whole peeled tomatoes from a can (San Marzano, if you can find them)*
5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste

Put the tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy saucepan (it fit just right in a 3-quart) over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomatoes. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, discard the onion, add salt to taste and keep warm while you prepare your pasta.

Serve with spaghetti, with or without grated parmesan cheese to pass.

It's 10pm. Do you think it's too late for a bowl of pasta??

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The perfect cereal?

I've been meaning to talk about my current, all-time favorite cereal for a while now. I know, I know. It's such a personal thing and what I like may not be what you like. However, I thought I'd throw this out there for all of you who may have seen this particular item in the cereal aisle of your grocery store and thought about it but never bought it.

Yes. I could eat this cereal day and night. Why? It's just everything I want in a bowl of cereal-y goodness. First, and most importantly, the flakes stay crunchy forever! You could leave the bowl sitting while sitting down to update your blog and when you came back your cereal would still be crunchy good!

It's sweet but not too sweet. Just the right touch to prevent it from being bland. Oh...and the strawberries and raspberries. Swoon. Yes...tons and tons of fruit. So sweet and plentiful. This cereal does not skimp on any of the good stuff and that is why every time I go to the grocery store you'll find me walking out with a box. It's panic time in the house if there isn't a box sitting in the cupboard.

Yes. Don't wait. Go buy a box and see for yourself. You won't regret it. I promise! And no. I have no affiliation with the company. Just an avid eater of this particular cereal :)

Hope you're having a better day where you are. It's cold, slushy, and rainy in this neck of the woods. How un-North Carolina.