School - tomato sauce.
remember how I came up with my all-purpose sauce.
I was making a pot roast. The sauce tastes best when it
begins with a pot roast. I suppose I was just looking for
something new to do, pot-roastwise.
probably just playing around with flavor combinations I
liked while looking for a way to make a cheap cut of meat
more tender. So I began with a can of tomato purée or maybe
crushed tomatoes (but I have also used diced tomatoes to
tomatoes will make a chuck roast more tender, I theorized,
then perhaps a little more acid in the form of orange juice
will help break down the tough meat even more. I had an
orange on hand; I squeezed it and drained the juice into the
then I added the spices that I think make the sauce stand
out from pretty much anything else, ever: cloves and
and cloves are probably the two most predominant spices in
my favorite kind of chili (both are used in Greek cooking
and the chili was invented by Greek immigrants). So they
were on my mind when I first came up with the sauce, and
ever since, and long before it.
delicate hand is necessary for these spices in this sauce.
You don’t want to go overboard with them. You want them to
contribute to the flavor rather than overwhelm it; subtlety
is the key. I use just two cloves, maybe three, and one
stick of cinnamon.
wine goes in there, too, and onions and garlic for
additional aromatic punch.
it, I tasted it and I realized right then that I had
developed my all-purpose sauce.
what I mean: I made it again last week (the first time was
years ago). Last week’s version was used as a braising
liquid in which I cooked a hunk of beef.
was the first night. The second night, I cut the leftover
beef into cubes and served it on top of egg noodles with the
sauce as a kind of pasta sauce. None of the beef was left
for the third night, so I used the remaining sauce as a
flavoring for ground turkey — sloppy joe style — that I
served over rice.
nights, three different preparations, one sauce. It’s
versatile that way. And I actually made four different
preparations, because the second night I also put slices of
the beef on bread and covered it with the sauce for an
open-faced sandwich. I just didn’t mention it because I
didn’t want to seem like a pig.
together a sauce like this and coming up with new ways to
use it highlight two of the related things I enjoy most
about cooking. I love seeing what I happen to have in the
fridge, or the spice rack, and determining how I can use it
for that night’s meal.
that particular night several years and two cities ago, I
had an orange on hand, little bottles of cloves and cinnamon
and a bigger bottle of wine. The idea started with buying a
chuck roast at the store and blossomed from there.
is part and parcel of the second thing I love about cooking:
the creativity of it all. I am entranced — no, thrilled
— by the sheer act of taking independent ingredients and
combining them in ways to create something new, fresh and
of course, I get to eat it. That may be the best part of
(3-pound) hunk of beef, preferably inexpensive, optional
tablespoons olive oil
large clove garlic, crushed
dry red wine
(28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, tomato purée, chopped
tomatoes or diced tomatoes, with juice
from 1 juicy orange or 2 not-very-juicy oranges
2 to 3
cinnamon stick or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
using beef: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Liberally season
hunk of beef with salt and pepper. Heat oil in Dutch oven
over medium high heat and sear meat until brown on all
sides. Remove meat and set aside.
not using beef: Put oil in a pot over medium-high heat.
onion and sauté until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add
garlic and sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Add wine and stir to dissolve any brown bits that may be on
the bottom of the pan. Cook until wine is reduced by half.
Stir in tomatoes, orange juice, cloves and cinnamon. Return
meat to pot, if using, and turn in liquid until all sides of
meat are coated.
using meat, cover and cook in the oven for 1 hour until
done. If not using meat, lower temperature and gently simmer
on stove for 30 minutes.
serving: 366 calories; 14 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 76 mg
cholesterol; 23 g protein; 37 g carbohydrate; 9 g sugar; 3 g
fiber; 2351 mg sodium; 56 mg calcium.
by Daniel Neman