I know. Many of you out there are already mentally (if not literally) signing off, saying “what the *%## is a recipe without a recipe?” and feel that you can’t cook a dish without a detailed account of ingredients, measured quantities and step-by-step instructions. But, oh, my foolish little friend, yes you can. I will even hold your hand throughout the entire intimidating ordeal. Please let me explain.
Contrary to popular belief, everybody can cook (except for maybe Paris Hilton, I don’t know about her.) Perhaps some have more of a knack for it than others (a “green thumb” only for cooking instead of gardening, if you will), but it is definitely something that can be learned. Not just the science of it, but the thoughts and the processes behind cooking a decent meal. Few ingredients and easy techniques can combine into a great meal, as long as a minimum of thought is put into it.
Basic tips for cooking simple and delicious dishes:
Use the freshest and most quality ingredients possible. While I am a HUGE advocate of using up leftover items in your fridge—wasting food is a sin!!!....my Jewish grandma taught me well, don’t buy crappy quality and you will find that you won’t need forty-seven items per recipe and that less is more.
Always use the real thing. I know a lot of “healthy” recipes call for all kinds of substitutes, for sugar, butter, cream, etc., but honestly the best tasting and the healthiest meals (even the kind that use real full-fat glorious butter!) are made with pure ingredients. So make a small investment and buy some real, not imitation, maple syrup (sorry Aunt Jemima), and you will immediately be a convert at the altar of true maple-y goodness.
Forget measuring when not baking. Okay, well maybe not totally wipe it out of your consciousness, but I mean you need to know basically how much of something you are putting in your recipe, it’s not always necessary to know exactly how many teaspoons of such and such and grams of whatever. Your most important barometer? Your taste! That’s right, folks, keep on tasting what you are cooking to see how things are progressing. Only you can know what you like and how you like it. I mean, I can tell you what you should like since I think I know better, of course, but that doesn’t mean you will listen to me.
Now that you’ve read #3 and have a general understanding of where I am going with this, I can move onto the “no-recipe” recipe as promised eons ago in my post caption.
So, here ya go….
Take one or two or three pints of tomatoes (cherry, grape, mixed--basically whatever you’ve got in the house or liked the price of at the supermarket) and put them in a baking or casserole dish in a single layer (they can be jammed up next to one another, though). Then add enough extra-virgin olive oil to cover halfway up the sides of the tomatoes. Finely chop a shallot or two (or a small yellow onion if you don’t have shallots on hand), as well as a clove or two (or three, or ten if you are not planning on smooching anyone today) and sprinkle that over the tomatoes. Use whatever fresh herbs you prefer or have in your house (I like to use parsley, chives, thyme, oregano, basil and any combination of those thereof). If you only have parsley, then go with that—use as much or as little of each as you like. If I have a lemon lying around (and of course I always do, I mean, c’mon, I’m the one writing this thing so obviously I like food and stock my pantry thusly. Duh.) Grate some of the zest (only the yellow part, not the white pith, that’s bitter and yucky) on top of the whole shebang, too. If not, don’t sweat it. And yes, you can use dried herbs but trust me, when you are only using a few ingredients such as in the recipe try to go for the best quality and freshest ingredients (scroll up to read tip # 1 if you’ve already forgotten, and start paying attention, dammit!). The point is, anything goes, as long as you aren’t adding something ridiculously strong that obviously has no place in a pasta dish such as this, i.e. caraway seeds or anise. Then again, it’s YOUR taste and for that reason it’s totally up to you, so if you want to ruin this delicious dish with caraway seeds, go right ahead. Chances are I don’t know you and therefore do not have your address so won’t be knocking on your door to tell you you are a tasteless moron.
Bake for about one hour at 325 degrees and you will end up with a luscious, gorgeous, delicious mix of herby tomatoes that have burst a bit from their skins and have melted down and have absorbed all the yumminess of the herbs and garlic and onion and olive oil and holy crap I am so hungry….wait, I digress…where was I? Oh yes, your roasted tomato sauce is now done. Mix with your choice of cooked pasta (once again, aren’t I the most permissive teacher in the universe? I mean, I’ll pretty much give you an A for just showing up to class) and serve with some grated parmesan (or pecorino or asiago—remember, you have permission to choose. Just don’t go to the movies with me, because then it’s my way or the highway). Personally, I prefer a good parmagianno regiano and a linguini with this, but that’s just me, and only if you are asking. If you’re not asking, I’ll tell you anyway, but as I keep saying, either way you don’t have to listen. I’m not your mama!