I began my education in sauces with the first recipe in the "Sauce Sense" chapter of Cookwise. The chapter begins with purees, and sauces thickened with purees. The first recipe is called "Strictly American 'Eat Your Veggies' Spaghetti" and keeping in mind Nathan's admonition to only cook things I'm familiar with (I *have* made spaghetti sauce before), I thought it was a safe thing to start with. (The carrot sticks in the mise en place photo were pureed after they cooked.)
I made it exactly per the recipe, or as near to it as I could. One major difficulty I had is that after adding together several cooked items (onion and spices, celery and peppers, ground beef) and then adding the canned tomatoes (diced, my eye) and stock, it says "simmer on low for 20 minutes." Well, the mixture is by no means simmering at this point. I turned up the heat to bring it to a simmer, then turned it down again (low almost never keeps things simmering on my stove -- altitude?), watching to make sure it kept simmering for 20 minutes. When that was done, I thought it was a bit overcooked (20 min. + bring up to simmer time), and frustratingly, I knew the carryover heat would keep it overcooking for a little while longer. In the future, I think I will not be so literal about cooking times in the recipe. I can tell when vegetables are done.
Despite being a little overcooked, the sauce was good. I wish the diced tomatoes were actually diced, instead of being in pieces upwards of a 1/2 inch in diameter. It might have made it less chunky. The pureed carrot was good and smoothed out the texture a bit. I'd definitely try that again, especially considering how much sweetness is supposed to enhance tomato flavor. The other "problem" is that the recipe made A LOT of sauce. This is not unusual for spaghetti sauce recipes (I have a wine, mushroom, and beef recipe which is a) much tastier than this one and b) makes an enormous amount too.) but since I was following this recipe exactly, I also cooked the pound and a half of spaghetti (linguine, actually) to pair with the sauce. As any single person will tell you, this is enough pasta for about a week and a half, by which time, I shall be heartily sick of it. I froze the leftover sauce and am hoping that in a month or two I will remember to take it out and use it. Next time, that is another thing I will not take so literally.
In other news, I had a great weekend puttering around doing my own things. I just got back from visiting my dearest Aunt Ruthie and fortuitously being able to take my Aunt Janet (her sister) to visit with her too. Janet is going to be 80 this year, but you'd never be able to tell (except for the aversion to driving long distances, which is why it was my pleasure to take her with me). Ruthie is doing well after her surgery last December, but she is still under 100 lbs. and not very strong yet. Her spirits seemed to be in excellent shape however.
They are both widows and talked about what ways they missed their husbands and I related so well to their feelings. There are times I feel irritated at the one who is not here, as if he is only away on a long trip and I am inconvenienced by his absence. Maybe I'm living an inverted life, and instead of losing a husband when I am 73, I'll gain one. It's these kinds of weird thoughts that assure me that even though I am not currently writing, the pot is simmering.