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Marinara with hearty veggies over spaghetti

Food For Thought
By Deborah Lee Walker | Aug 10, 2017

 

printed 08/11/2017

 

(Aug. 11, 2017) Can you believe the summer is almost over?

Pretty soon the massive crowds will be just another statistic. The Bay Bridge will finally get a much needed rest and the Eastern Shore will return to a sense of “normalcy.”

Living in a popular resort has its advantages and disadvantages; I still have not made up my mind which outweighs the other. Excessive crowds or vacant highways are the norm for Ocean City; there is no such thing as moderation.

My intense schedule will be slowing down and leading the way to new horizons. I am hoping to make a monthly appearance on Delmarva Life; cooking in front of a camera is quite an exhilarating experience. Sometimes my butterflies flicker right before the cameras start to roll. I wonder if experienced veterans share my same sentiments.

Farmer’s markets are overflowing and will continue to flourish for the next few months. I look forward to my weekly visits; the picturesque abundance of produce brings a flavor of nostalgia to our little town. Farm-to-table embellishes my every thought and confirms how lucky Americans really are. The garden of acceptance bares many fruits; if only we could forget our differences and learn to get along. Harmony is a blessing and imperative for future growth.

My refrigerator is overflowing with firm eggplants, oversized zucchinis and brightly colored squash. A rainbow of bell peppers is not to be outdone. My kitchen counter shows off mounds of ruby, red tomatoes. That being said, I need to cook these vegetables before termination becomes evident.

Vegetable lasagna comes to my mind instantly but I want the vegetables to be the star; the vegetables and large noodles will compete for the spotlight. However, a foundation of marinara sauce over thin spaghetti will allow the vegetables to shine. The balance of sauce and pasta is imperative for a successful dish.

Cooking with vegetables is straightforward but a few tips yield better results. If one is using aubergine (purple) eggplants, it is necessary to heavily salt the flesh. Purple eggplant can be bitter; the salting process literally sweats out the sharpness.

Flavor is always a key component but texture is of great significance. Sautéing some of the vegetables for the marinara sauce caramelizes the natural sugars which enhances the overall dish. Remember, it is the tiniest details that separate an exceptional chef from the average cook.

The subject of the sauce itself needs to be addressed. Chicken stock adds a certain amount of smoothness and depth of flavor. A few pinches of baking soda does wonders for a tomato based sauce; the baking soda counteracts the acidity. You can tell when it is working because the tomato sauce starts to foam. Too much of the white powder will cause bitterness. Believe it or not but a few tablespoons of garlic and herb goat cheese adds creaminess that compliments the array of vegetables.

The following recipe will yield plenty of leftovers for freezing. If you prefer to make a smaller amount, simply reduce the recipe by half.

Labor Day is around the corner and menu planning is in full swing. Marinara sauce with hearty vegetables over thin spaghetti is a delicious plate of goodness. The beauty of this particular dish is that it can be served hot or room temperature. Enjoy!

Marinara Sauce with Hearty

Vegetables over Thin Spaghetti

 

Sauce

6 tablespoons good quality extra-virgin olive oil

6 large cloves garlic, minced

2 large sweet onions, chopped

1 ½ cups chicken stock

1 ½ cups dry white wine

4 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

3 teaspoons kosher salt

1 ½ teaspoons dried red pepper flakes

several pinches baking soda

3 tablespoons dried oregano

3 tablespoons dried basil

3 tablespoons dried thyme

3 tablespoon Herbs de Province

2 tablespoons dried sage

4 ounces garlic, herb goat cheese (optional)

Hearty Vegetables

1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes

6 tablespoons good quality extra-virgin olive oil

3 stalks celery, chopped

3 medium zucchini, very coarsely chopped

3 medium yellow squash, very coarsely chopped

1 small butternut squash, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 orange bell peppers, seeded, stems removed and coarsely chopped

2 yellow bell peppers, seeded, stems removed and coarsely chopped

2 poblano peppers, seeded, stems removed and coarsely chopped

4 portobello mushrooms, gills removed and sliced

3 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped

3 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely chopped

thin spaghetti

Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add garlic and onions and sauté until vegetables are translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes.

2. In the meantime, place eggplant on a sheet pan, salt generously, and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Rinse off the salt thoroughly with cold water.

3. In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add celery and eggplant and cook until eggplant is soft, about 15 minutes. Set eggplant mixture aside.

4. Increase heat to medium-high and add half of the zucchini, half of the yellow squash, half of the peppers and half of the mushrooms. Cook until vegetables have developed a good caramelization. When finished, add the cooked vegetables to the sauce.

5. Add the rest of the raw vegetables directly to the sauce and continue simmering for another 45 minutes.

6. In the meantime, cook pasta according to instructions and how many guests you will be serving.

7. Just before serving, add fresh basil and oregano to the sauce.

8. Serve sauce over pasta and top with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Secret Ingredient – Time. “You will never ‘find’ time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.”

— Charles Buxton

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