Thursday, January 27, 2005

Random Musings, 1/27/05

WTF is with the word "catsup?" I'm rummaging through one of my favorite cookbooks (Let The Flames Begin by Schlesinger & Willoughby) and these guys keep using this affected, antediluvian "catsup" instead of the infinitely preferable "ketchup." Their other, otherwise excellent cookbooks are equally guilty.

Speaking of ketchup, I have managed to find what may be safely considered the pinnacle of the condiment: Heinz organic ketchup. I'm sure there are all sorts of enviro-reasons for making this purchase, etc., etc. etc. Frankly, it just flat-out tastes better than anything else in the ketchup realm. Probably the substitution of pure organic cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup is the greatest factor at play here. If you don't care about ketchup, then pretend this ketchup will help save the earth.

While we're waxing organic and tomatoishly, I must issue a rave for the Coral Gables Farmer's Market. There are many misguided people who get all atwitter about living somewhere with four seasons. Well, you know, we live in a pluralist have at it. I like living somewhere were dead-ripe tomatoes and corn are available fresh and locally in February. Every Saturday (or, at stone worst, every other Saturday) I meander over to the farmer's market. Last week the tomatoes were so stunning, I bought a whole damned flat of them.

Contemplating, on a Thursday evening, the huge number of tomatoes left in the flat (after making a killer pico de gallo salsa on Tuesday) and my beloved wife hinting she wanted a simple spaghetti marinara, I put 6 of them through a tomato press I bought on clearance at Williams-Sonoma. The tomato press cleanly and quickly separates the seeds and peel and other undesirables from the pulp. With said pulp, I made a simple, fresh, marinara sauce to go on spaghetti.


I mean, really...WOW. The difference is off-the-charts. Most jarred pasta sauces are made with tomato puree or tomato paste or both. This is because tomatoes are mostly water and hauling the tomato puree/paste needed to make X pasta sauce is a HELL of a lot cheaper than hauling the fresh tomatoes needed to make the same amount of sauce. Since we live in a country where people eat things out of boxes, cans, freezers and drive-through windows (as Numbah One Son has learned, "That's not food, that's groceries") nobody seems to mind a whole bloody lot.

But the taste is so much fresher and more complex and the work required so minimal, I am amazed more people even foodies haven't picked up on this. So I issue my huge rave to the farmer's market and the organic produce they bring to our tables.

I'm sure there are people who buy from these farmers because they care about "sustainable farming" or worry about pesticides in the ecosystem, or because they get to shop with those European-like knit bags. Whatever. The food tastes better, and if you think I am doing the right thing for the wrong reason, that just shows how out of whack your whole reasoning is and, most importantly, how wooden your palate has become.

Tomorrow I am going to my local Italian deli, where they make fresh mozzarella (from raw milk!), and we shall be having Insalata Caprese and quaffing prosecco all weekend. This is what life in what passes for civilized paradise is supposed to be like. Now all I need to find is a hardcore butcher* and I am all set.

One last word on farmer's markets...get the Williams-Sonoma farmer's market cookbook. Sometimes the W-S cookbooks are absolute clunkers, but this one is great. The recipes avail the diner of what is freshest and combines the various ingredients to highlight the amazing flavors of perfectly ripe, lovingly grown produce, with intelligent wine/beer pairings too.

Now you know.

* The last time I was in Boston, I went to one of my favorite restaurants, The East Coast Grill in Cambridge, and had bone-in ribeye steak topped with a grilled kimchee and I have been jonesing for this for nearly a year.