I wanted to give a little shout out today to an amazing lady and an amazing idea.
I arrived in Seattle six years ago with approximately two hundred cookbooks, several boxes of kitchen paraphernalia, knowing not a soul and no idea that I was about to encounter one of the most vibrant and inspiring food communities on the planet.
I caught glimpses of the scene through various blogs and then through Facebook, but it was always as an outsider wistfully gazing in, with my nose pressed firmly against the window pane, while the assembled throng feasted inside. Twitter was a help; finally I could follow the restaurants, farmers, bloggers and assorted foodies I’d been admiring, but the conversation always seemed to be swirling around me rather than including me.
And then I heard about Foodportunity. And it was revelation.
Seattle food blogger, super mum, and networking genius, Keren Brown, of the blog Frantic Foodie, started the Foodportunity meet ups back in 2009 as a way of bringing together the disparate elements of the Seattle foodie scene. Food enthusiasts of every stripe – chefs and restaurateurs, writers and bloggers, photographers and PR people, farmers and winemakers, bakers and makers and anyone who is enthusiastic and passionate about food is invited to attend, sample delectable fare from a variety of restaurants and producers, and talk about food, until the cows (all organic and locally reared of course) come home.
At my first Foodportunity I met bloggers I’d been following for years, chefs I had admired from afar and a whole bunch of knowledgeable, witty and friendly fellow food enthusiasts, who were only too keen to share their insights and expertise. Finally, after three years of being in Seattle, I had found my ‘family’. People I met at that and subsequent Foodportunities now number among my dearest friends and I’ve been invited to some amazing events as a consequence. It has quite literally transformed my life in Seattle and I can never thank Keren (who has also since become a friend) enough. Every city needs a Keren and a Foodportunity.
If you’re pressing your nose against the glass of the Seattle food scene and want to be welcomed inside with open arms then get yourself a ticket to the next Foodportunity on October 22nd. I am girlishly excited because fabulously inspirational food blogger and food stylist extraordinaire Aran Goyoaga of Cannelle et Vanille is going to be there, talking about her new book. Do let me know if you’re thinking of attending. I’d love to meet up.
Anyway, I’m throwing in a quick recipe for my mum’s tomato sauce as for me this is the ground zero, the sine qua non of my own foodie journey. Even as a tiny kid I could tell that my Italian mother’s homemade tomato sauce was in a different league from all other canned and jarred sauces I’d ever tasted and now I see the Minx having the same thoughts when I make this for her. I used to adore this not just on pasta, but on breaded shallow-fried veal or chicken fillets.
A generous slug of good olive oil
1 small carrot, finely chopped
One medium or half a large onion, finely chopped.
1-3 cloves of garlic, crushed, to taste
A couple of pounds of ripe tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded and filleted or a bottle of good passata or a couple of cans of good quality tomatoes
Half a good quality stock cube (optional)
A couple of glasses of white wine
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Herbs to taste (see ‘Variations’ below)
Heat a generous slug of oil in saucepan and gently sizzle the carrot, onion and garlic until softened and very slightly golden. This is your soffritto. You could add finely chopped celery, but cooked celery is the work of devil, so I do without.
Squeeze your tomatoes through a mouli-legumes (foodmill?) if necessary and add to the soffritto. Make sure you scrape and add all the flavourful stuff from the bottom of the mouli. Cook the sauce on a medium heat until it has reduced and thickened (about 30-45 minutes depending on your tomatoes) again making sure that you scrape in all the flavourful stuff that clings to the side of the saucepan.
A dirty little family secret is that my mother and aunt would crumble in half a good quality stock cube (they call them ‘dadi’ or dice in Italian) and this does add an extra layer of flavour. I bought some good stock cubes when I was in France this year for exactly this purpose but you can use whatever you have to hand or nothing at all.
When the sauce is pretty much ready, throw in a couple of glasses of white wine and then simmer the sauce for an extra ten minutes. Season to taste.
You could probably can this, making sure to add either citric acid or lemon juice. I am scared of canning, so freeze my sauce in a stack of Ziploc bags.
You could add some finely diced pancetta or dried herbs such as oregano to the initial soffritto, some bayleaves during cooking or some fresh basil, thyme or fresh oregano to the sauce with the wine at the end. You could also experiment with substituting red wine, vermouth or white port for the white wine.
If you want other ideas for what to do with a glut of tomatoes – you could dry them and preserve them in oil, make gazpacho, or bake tomato focaccia.
I think it’s about time I made a cake, don’t you?