November 14, 2012

Home Cooking

As parents, I think one of the most enduring gifts we can pass along to our children is a love of cooking. My wife and I both grew up watching our parents cook, as did our kids. My son and daughter are both highly proficient in the kitchen, and I have hopes for the grandchildren as well.

For many years, my mother cooked on a schedule, a necessity given tight family budgets of the late 50s and early 60s. I can't remember the exact sequence, but roast chicken was in the rotation, as was spaghetti and meat balls. I have vague memories of cube steak, the ultimate in economizing, along with dandelion greens salad. Friday was fish, and Saturday night was hot dogs and beans. Often, my mother would fix a pot of tomato sauce and just throw in chicken parts or pork chops and let it simmer for several hours.

Fast food did not exist, and we never had pizza that I can recall. Frozen anything was still in its infancy. Most vegetables came out of a can or the garden. I still remember some godawful yellow string beans and wax beans. Inedible and indigestible. As for asparagus, I avoided that up until just this year. I can endure it, along with mushrooms, which I have grown to like.

If we went on a road trip, my mother would make about a dozen or so pepper and sausage sandwiches on bulky rolls (topped with poppy seeds) and pack them in grocery bags. I can't remember if we had pizzelle, but I always had some for road trips. Who needs Mickey D's when you can have that!

On those rare occasions when my father cooked, it was a big to-do. He was limited to breakfast, as I recall, although he did create the grilled cheese with maple syrup specialty of the house. My first effort at cooking, in my early teens, was to essay cream puffs. I skipped right past the dull basics and went straight to dessert. They weren't too bad, although I suspect I had plenty of help.

I still like to cook. I just made up a batch of spaghetti sauce using a new recipe I found on my cell phone's recipe app. (You have to keep up, don't you know.) I cooked it in a slow cooker, although you could just simmer it in a big pot. I added a couple of ingredients, as I'm sure anyone would do when making their own sauce. I liked the recipe because it seemed kind of classic and simple. Plus, it makes a whole bunch, so if you like it, you are set for quite a few meals if you freeze it in portions.

1 pound - Italian sausage (chopped links or ground)
1/2 cup - onion -- finely chopped
1 12 oz. can tomato paste
3 28 oz. cans Italian style crushed tomatoes
2 cups - water (1-1 1/2 if using crock pot)
4 teaspoon - garlic -- minced
4 bay leaves
2 tablespoon - sugar
4 teaspoon - dried basil
2 teaspoon - dried oregano
4 tablespoon - fresh parsley -- chopped
2 teaspoon - salt
3 red, yellow, or orange peppers cut into smallish chunks
A dollop of red wine

In a large pot, cook and stir the Italian sausage with the onions until the meat is brown; drain fat. Add remaining ingredients, except the spaghetti. Bring sauce to a boil; reduce heat. Partly cover, and simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. (If desired, simmer in a crock pot instead of a pot. Lessen the amount of water to 1 or 1 1/2 cups if using the crock pot method). Makes 12 cups of sauce.

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