Slow Cooker Tomato Sauce + The Lost Family Meal

slow cooker tomato sauce on cracker

Suppertime was not an especially sacred time in my household while I was growing up. Although we said a grace of sorts as a small reminder to be thankful for the food and family and all the things, I don’t remember if my parents had particular rules about sitting down to the family meal. We put our elbows on the table, chewed with our mouths full, answered the phone if it rang, snuck our brussel sprouts to the dog and did not ask to be excused. If we turned off the TV, it was because my parents found whatever we were watching annoying, not necessarily to encourage suppertime as a time for us to catch up and debrief about our day. Sometimes we sat together in discussion, sometimes we didn’t. Either way, my point is eating together and family time were not deeply instilled.

Since my childhood so long ago, things have gotten much worse. Busy schedules split families up during mealtimes, leaving members (children included) to fend for themselves. TV’s and smart phones hold our attention instead of precious conversation. Ready-to-eat meals are taking the place of homemade meals to make food preparation less of a hassle. As a result of all of these changes, young people are losing valuable life skills such as cooking, conversation and sharing time with others. The American family meal is swiftly being dismantled. In asserting independence from the kitchen, we’ve lost a fundamental key to civil society.

slow cooker tomato sauce plate

Michael Pollan, author of popular books such as The Food Movement, Rising and The Omnivore’s Dilemma states:

“In a challenge to second-wave feminists who urged women to get out of the kitchen, [Janet] Flammang suggests that by denigrating “foodwork”—everything involved in putting meals on the family table—we have unthinkingly wrecked one of the nurseries of democracy: the family meal. It is at “the temporary democracy of the table” that children learn the art of conversation and acquire the habits of civility—sharing, listening, taking turns, navigating differences, arguing without offending—and it is these habits that are lost when we eat alone and on the run.”

In Janet Flammang’s book The Taste for Civilization: Food, Politics, and Civil Society, the political scientist writes:

“Significant social and political costs have resulted from fast food and convenience foods … grazing and snacking instead of sitting down for leisurely meals, watching television during mealtimes instead of conversing viewing food as fuel rather than sustenance, discarding family recipes and foodways, and denying that eating has social and political dimensions.”

Being an individualistic society, we dropped many of our social formalities long ago. This includes the roles each member of a family must assume. Grandparents are sent to nursing homes, instead of being an active part of the household, single parents struggle to raise children on their own, children are not taught to respect their elders or engage in conversation.

slow cooker tomato sauce cracker

During my five years in Korea, a collectivist society in which everyone strives to be part of the accepted norm, I was shocked to see how differently family members interact with each other, especially in regards to food. Food is shared and enjoyed together. Family recipes have been passed down from generation to generation for centuries and the pride of preparing a home cooked meal can be tasted in the food. Grandparents live with, or close to their children so they can be active in raising their grandchildren and because of this, the young ones learn social skills as well as the art of conversation. Though collectivist societies have many problems of their own, they do family much better than we do.

I’ve thought about this topic a great deal. It disturbs me how easily we have come to dismiss the importance of food and family. When I have children, I hope to designate suppertime as a sacred time. Time I will never get back, so I must use well. After losing my father four years ago, I have learned to take advantage of the time I have and to be conscious of what I must not take for granted. Food and family are both precious and must be treated with love and care.

slow cooker tomato sauce bite

Slow cookers help. A lot. Slow cooked dishes that you don’t have to fear will burn your house down are always helpful. This large batch of sauce was frozen in smaller batches and used for a multitude of meals: pizzas, pastas, crackers, rice and meats – this sauce goes with everything. Start your cooker before you go to bed or in the morning before you leave for work and come home to a homemade meal for you and your family to share.

Slow Cooker Tomato Sauce

 Ingredients

  • 15-20 quartered roma tomatoes
  • 1 bulb (about a dozen cloves) of peeled and crushed garlic
  • 2 chopped yellow onions
  • 12 ounces of sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 1 diced zucchini
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • optional: make it spicy with chilies – add to your preference
  • optional: jerky – your choice (it softens and melts in your mouth)

Directions

Using a 6 quart slow cooker, place all of the ingredients in the crock and turn on low (8 hours)

Mix occasionally… or don’t. The slow cooker will work its magic.

If the finished product is too chunky, use an immersion blender to get a smoother sauce.

Top your plate of pasta with this stuff as well as Parmesan cheese and fresh basil, dip bread or crackers in this sauce for a bite of heaven, use it as a base for your hand made pizzas. The possibilities are endless. Enjoy it with someone you love.

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Savory Albacore Tuna Steak with Saffron Seaweed Rice and Golden Onions + Being a Student

Tamari Butter Dijon Albacore Tuna Steak abed Saffron Seaweed Rice and Golden Onions ready

If I could meet my 15-year old self and talk to her about life I would tell her to not waste her time being so shy, be more interested in things/people/events and to work harder at school.

I really love being a student right now. It is giving me the time to work out my future, is pushing me to challenge myself and enforcing the fact that I can do anything I put my mind to. Also, I’m learning a lot of cool stuff.

Tamari Butter Dijon Albacore Tuna Steak abed Saffron Seaweed Rice and Golden Onions

My English instructor is having us build a portfolio of essays this term. In the beginning of class, we chose an article from a selection and wrote a reflection essay on that article. From there, we are to write varying sorts of essays that build on the theme. I chose The Food Movement, Rising by Michael Pollan, an easy choice since all I think about is food and cooking. I find myself more and more inspired by the things people are doing to make food better.

Saffron Seaweed rice prep

My second essay asked me to do some research on Asheville, my new home, and find someone to interview in relation to the topic. Since Asheville is totally on top of the farm-to-table movement, I had a lot of choices. I decided to interview Chef Josh Widner, Chef du Cuisine of The Marketplace restaurant in downtown Asheville. Conducting an interview was a challenge as I have never really done one before, but he was a good sport. I had prepared what I thought were great questions, but during the interview I realized they were novice and redundant. Oops.

I had fun anyway. And I asked him about internship possibilities in the future and got an enthusiastic response. Woohoo!

Tamari Butter Dijon Albacore Tuna Steak abed Saffron Seaweed Rice and Golden Onions bite

I will post my essay shortly. For now: Tuna steaks.

This recipe is ridiculous. I first made it up about seven years ago and could’ve eaten it every week since then without getting sick of it. The sauce (butter!) brings out all the flavour in the tuna and the saffron seaweed rice is a perfect compliment. It is a perfect full meal for two and is exceptional for impressing a date. Seriously. This fish is sexy.

Tamari Butter Dijon Albacore Tuna Steak abed Saffron Seaweed Rice and Golden Onions plate

Savory Albacore Tuna Steak with Saffron Seaweed Rice and Golden Onions

Serves 2

Ingredients

For the fish and the sauce:

  • 2 tuna steaks
  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon cold butter cut into small chunks
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon minced ginger
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon corn starch

For the rice:

  • 1 cup uncooked basmati rice (rinsed)
  • 2 cups water
  • 5-6 saffron petals
  • 1 cup crunchy Korean seaweed

Sautéed onions:

  • 1 medium to large chopped red or yellow onion
  • 1 chopped clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions

Place rinsed rice into a pot with water and saffron. Cook covered on high until it boils and then turn heat down to low. Keep covered. Do not stir. To check if it is finished, tip the pot to the side. If you see any water or the rice moves at all, it needs to cook for longer. If it does not move, turn off heat.

Preheat oven at 425ºF/220ºC/Gas Mark 7.

Rinse the tuna steaks and dry off excess water. Place the steaks in a baking (cast iron preferable) pan.

Tamari Butter Dijon Albacore Tuna Steak prep

Combine all of the ingredients for sauce into a bowl. Mix some, but do not mix very thoroughly so each bite is a slightly different experience. Divide the sauce on the steaks. Bake for 12 minutes and remove from heat.

Tamari Butter Dijon Albacore Tuna Steak prep 2

Heat a pan over medium heat on the stovetop. Toss onions, garlic and butter into the pan. Sautee contents until the onions are soft and lightly browned.

Scoop desired amount of rice into a bowl and mix in the seaweed. Divide the rice onto two plates.

Spoon onions onto the rice and place the tuna steaks on top of their oniony bed. Spoon extra sauce around the plate and on top of the fish.

Light some candles, pour some red wine, breathe in the aromas and gaze lovingly at your plate.

Enjoy every bite.

IMG_3015 Tamari Butter Dijon Albacore Tuna Steak abed Saffron Seaweed Rice and Golden Onions done

Flavour Pairing: Yuja Pomegranate Truffles + The Food Movement

yuja pomegrante truffles.jpg

As a lifelong lover of cooking, I have always been passionate about food and food culture. I realize now how lucky I was growing up to have had information about healthy eating practices, access to fresh farm produce and an environment where food actually tasted like something that was plucked from the ground. My desire to cook and make flavor come alive was born from being around food that actually tasted like food and from being embedded in a community culture where food and its origins mattered.

America has always been known as a land of abundance. Unfortunately, where there is great abundance can come great ignorance. We do not have to deeply think about food because its abundance is embedded in the American consumer culture. We shop at supermarkets full of individually wrapped products, pumped full of preservatives to maintain longer shelf life. We see uniform produce, shipped during any season from around the world, stunted of true flavor and lacking nutrients. Ready-to-eat meals are pre-prepared to satiate our assertion of independence from the kitchen. Hefty cuts of meat are laid out in packages designed to make us forget that it was once part of an animal, while undesirable cuts are disposed of. What would it look like if our culture were designed to have us question our food and even beyond that and be genuinely curious about where it comes from and how it might help or harm our health?

 homemade yuja pomegranate truffles.jpg

Michael Pollan, author of The Food Movement, Rising says, “The food movement gathers around “the recognition that today’s food and farming economy is unsustainable.” Vast expanses of fields containing a single high yield crop saps valuable nutrients from the soil. Our inability to stop the momentum of the system of supply and demand has left our once vibrant and nutrient rich land an assembly line of fast food catering to the needs of the masses. Our bodies have responded to our high sugar, high salt, and bland diets with chronic disease, obesity, diabetes and weak flavor palettes. As a chef in training, I cannot abide.

 yuzu shochu.jpg

Pollan aptly defines the food movement by stating that it reflects our “attempt to redefine, or escape, the role of consumer.” This can be seen in the small farms, businesses and markets popping up around the country. Farm-to-table dining was started with the realization that the best ingredients can be found close to home. Chefs are working with local farms and only seasonal produce to achieve the freshest meals possible. Huge growth in Do-It-Yourself (DIY) community has developed as well. People are actively learning how to make food products on their own in small batches with simple techniques. There is a strong urge to take part in the process of making food rather than just purchasing and heating it. The food movement is like beautification for our taste buds and our communities.

yuzuyuja.jpg

To celebrate: truffles!

Korean Yuja (or Yuzu in Japanese) can be called citron in English as it doesn’t have a direct translation.. It is often used in honey teas, desserts and liquor infusions in both countries. The flesh of this citrus is quite tart and an excellent flavour booster for just about anything. I was clever enough to bring a small jar of yuja honey tea back to the States with me. Like all citrus, it compliments the bitterness of chocolate perfectly. And when the whole pomegranate kernels burst in your mouth, you know you can die happy.

 Yuja Pomegranate Truffles

 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 3-4 tablespoons yuja honey tea (order here)
  • 1 pomegranate
  • ½ cup of heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • pinch of salt

Directions

Heat the cream, yuja honey tea, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a soft boil. Stir continuously.

Turn heat off and add coconut oil. Stir until fully incorporated.

Add cocoa powder in small batches and mix until thick and smooth.

Let cool to room temperature.

Form teaspoon sized balls by hand. Poke a small hole in the center and put in two whole pomegranate kernels. Envelope kernels and re-form the truffle into a ball. Dust with more cocoa powder. Repeat.

Store in the refrigerator. They should keep well in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. If removed, they will only last a day.

Makes 20-24 truffles.