Let’s Eat — A Writer’s Guide to Cooking
I grew up in the kitchen, where my mother prepared fabulous meals and baked herself silly. Our family of five routinely went through seven or eight dozen eggs a week. Every other morning, the milkman left us twelve quarts of whole milk. Sometimes we ran out. We had a big garden, where we grew tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, Armenian cucumbers, okra, and squash. Fruit was everywhere in abundance. Summer was an ongoing feast of melons, grapes, peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots. My mother canned tomatoes, peaches, and apricots, and made berry jam, apricot jam, fig jam, and pomegranate jelly. Every year she also put up dozens of quarts of grape leaves, an important ingredient in Armenian cooking.
For a good part of the year, meat was barbecued in the backyard over a bed of coals from wood taken from our vineyard. We never used charcoal. We built our fire with varying sizes of wood according to the length of time we needed the coals to last. When they were available, we roasted peppers on the grill. Occasionally, we would bury onions in the coals, then haul them out later after they had softened. With salt, they were a feast all by themselves.
Wild Bill’s Spaghetti Sauce
Approx. 1 lb. ground beef, 20% fat 2 or 3 medium-sized tomatoes 4 or 5 cloves of garlic About half a good-sized bell pepper About half a medium-sized yellow onion 1 zucchini Approx. ˝ lb. mushrooms 2 8-oz. cans tomato sauce 1 6-oz. can tomato paste A little extra virgin olive oil Salt Pepper Oregano (dry) Italian seasoning Basil (dry)
I always start with a little olive oil in the bottom of both the frying pan and the sauce pan. First I put the meat in the frying pan, and add a light layer of salt, pepper, oregano, and Italian seasoning. For no real reason, I add the basil to the sauce, rather than to the meat. I’ve been doing this for so long, now I’m afraid to change.
While the meat is warming up, I chop the garlic, then throw that into the sauce pan, which I start on a low heat. Then I chop the pepper and onion and throw that in. The tomatoes are next. I chop those, put them in the pan, and sprinkle in some salt, pepper, and a little of each of the rest of the seasonings.
By this time, the meat is starting to simmer, so I break it up with a wooden spoon and spread it out in the pan. Each time I do this, while the meat is being browned, I sprinkle in a little more salt, pepper, and so on. Unless I’m hungry, I don’t taste the meat, relying instead on my sense of smell to tell me how things are coming along.
Next, I chop the zucchini into fairly small pieces, and dump it into the sauce. The tomatoes should be bubbling just a little by now. Then I chop the mushrooms and throw them in, stir the whole mess together, and add another layer of seasoning.
By this time, the meat needs attention, so I fiddle with that for a minute.
While the meat is coming in on the home stretch, I add the tomato sauce and tomato paste to the sauce and mix that all together. More salt and pepper — use plenty — and the other seasonings. It takes quite a bit, because this recipe makes a big pan of sauce. (The pan I use comfortably holds half a gallon, with about an inch to spare at the top.)
Raise the heat to medium. When the meat is ready (don’t overdo it), dump it into the sauce, along with ALL the juice. Stir it in. Cook for awhile on medium heat, so the excess moisture bubbles away, then lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for an hour or two, stirring occasionally. Keep a lid on the pan at an angle. When the sauce is close to done, give it a taste to see if it needs any more seasoning.
That’s it. Leftover sauce can be poured over bread for a great snack, or given to a neighbor or your favorite mother-in-law.
Also by William Michaelian
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
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