Sunday, February 13, 2011

Basics and My not-so-secret ingredient Spaghetti Sauce

When I got married I knew nothing about cooking.  I went in the kitchen, read the package instructions and tried not to burn things.  Unfortunately, as hard as I tried, burning and bad meals were the order of the day.

My husband, an inspired chef, knew that he would have to teach me a few things if he was ever going to eat a decent meal that he didn’t cook himself.  Yes, he gave me some basic how-to’s, but what really left its mark was the exposure he gave me to foods and spices I had never known growing up. 

He introduced me to sweet peppers, plantain, mangoes, sauces, and spices, but more importantly he made me realize that cooking well is cooking from the heart.  It was on from there. 

Not every inspired dish has turned out well.  When my children were growing up like all kids everyday they asked “Mom, what’s for dinner?”  Whenever my answer was “Oh, it’s a surprise!” they looked just a little uneasy.  Today when my family sees that inspired look in my eyes, they can’t wait to taste my latest creation.

Success means using basic combinations that work

Honestly, the only rules here are the ones you make because everyone’s taste buds are different.  Depending on where you are in your cooking skills, you will begin to understand that certain combinations of ingredients create the basis for a successful dish. 

A great example of this is onions, sweet peppers and fresh garlic, my favorite trio.  They are generally always good together.  When you are working with these three ingredients, whatever you are making is bound to turn out good.  You then build on this foundation.  

If you hate garlic don’t use it!  Remember, the idea here is to free yourself of rules and go with what you truly feel in your gut.  I do advise you to be adventurous to try new things and even if you previously thought you hated something, try to see it in a differently.   Doing new things in new ways is what creative cooking is all about.

Spaghetti and Meat Sauce with Sweet Potato

I love sweet potatoes.  Their beautiful orange color and naturally sweet taste makes them a year round staple in my house.  One day while preparing spaghetti, it seemed to me that a sweet potato would add just the right amount of creaminess that I was craving. I know, that sounds a bit strange to you right now, but I am telling you that this has become a staple in my house.  Even my husband, who hates pasta and tomato-based sauces, loves this. 

Ingredients (feel free to substitute):

Spaghetti #9
Ground Turkey  (small pack)
1 large sweet potato
1 Sweet Red Pepper
1 Clove of Fresh Garlic
1 can of crushed tomatoes
Olive Oil


Put on the water for spaghetti.
Peel the sweet potato and then cut into big chunks.
When the water begins to boil, throw it into the pot.
Have a strainer or slotted spoon handy.
Cook until tender.
Remove to a bowl or large dish.
Add spaghetti to boiling water--follow package directions.

Peel and chop the onion, peppers and fresh garlic into small pieces.
Sauté the onion and peppers in olive or any vegetable oil until the onion is translucent.
Add the garlic last and
Remove from the pan.

Sauté ground turkey, chopping and stirring until all the pink is gone but again, don’t let it burn.  I generally use a little olive oil in the pan when doing this when doing this because ground turkey doesn’t have much fat.

Add the sautéed onion, garlic and peppers to the meat.
Season according to your taste—I use powdered garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and an organic unsalted seasoning mix I bought in Costco.
Add the can of crushed tomatoes and let it simmer adding seasonings to taste.

Using a potato masher,  mash the sweet potato.
Add to the sauce and mix well.

Here’s the great thing about the sweet potato:

  •  It sweetens the sauce taking away that harsh tomato acidity that often comes with tomatoes without having to add sugar (hence my husband’s love for this dish)
  • Sweet potatoes add a creamy texture to the sauce
  •  One sweet potato adds 4 grams of fiber, 475% of the recommended dietary allowance of Vitamin A and 32% of Vitamin C.

So you have now created a masterpiece with a high-nutrition IQ that tastes heavenly and provides comfort all on the same plate.

What could be better than that?


Comments and questions related to this post are welcome!

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