BookPeople Feast: Sicilian Tomato Sauce

This month our booksellers are cooking up a seven course feast to highlight the many new cookbooks hitting our shelves in time for the holidays. Join us as we chronicle our ambitious culinary undertakings here on the BookPeople blog. From cocktails to side dishes to dessert, we’ll share our adventures investigating a wide variety of new cookbooks, all of which will add up to one eclectic meal.

First course: Cocktails with Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails
Second Course: Tomato and Pomegranate Salad from 
Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi
Third course:
 Old Ikarian Tomato-Acorn Soup from Ikaria: Lessons on Food, Life and Longevity from the Greek Island Where People Forget to Die

Today, Katie P. and Andrew B. prepare an appetizer using the Sicilian Tomato Sauce in The Pizza Bible by Tony Geimgani

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~post by Katie P. & Andrew B.

Look, y’all. Sometimes you just have to wing it. There is much to be said for preparing a finely crafted meal from studiously selected ingredients, but just as often as not, cooking comes down to a) what you have on hand, and b) how much time you have to prepare it.

In the kitchen, improvisation and a sense of humor are king and queen. By that standard, our evening with Tony Gemignani’s The Pizza Bible was a master class of Second City proportions.

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Charged with preparing an appetizer, we quickly realized we were out of our element. Katie is an avid bread-maker, and so maaaaybe should have suspected this plot twist, but: TURNS OUT DOUGH TAKES FOREVER TO MAKE. Pizza dough in particular requires two separate 24-hour-rising periods, which was just under the amount of time we had when we opened this book for the first time to pick a recipe. It also, side note, calls for items like “diastatic malt extract,” which, LOL, use real words, Tony.

So we were stuck. Lacking diastatic malt and time, we had a game-time decision on our hands. Did we lose heart, cower, and give up? You bet your boots we did not. We improvised. In our subsequent panicked energetic search for an appetizer requiring less than 48 hours of prep, we found inspiration in the sauce. No, not that sauce. Tomato sauce. (I mean, a little bit of both. What are we, robots?) We decided to transform one of Gemignani’s pizza sauces into the centerpiece of an hors d’oeuvres plate.

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We landed on the recipe for Sicilian sauce, which uses three different textures of tomato (ground, crushed, and paste), paired with Greek oregano, to create what the author calls “a classic East Coast flavor.” Neither of us is a Yankee, so y’all will have to report back on that. If this is what things taste like back East, then touché, northern brethren. Touché. Paired with sea-salt dusted crackers, we had a crunchy mini-pizza crowdpleaser on our hands. Katie had the genius idea to add roasted garlic to our mini-pizzas, because she is generally a genius who thinks of genius things. To roast garlic, just saw off the top ¼ inch of the head after peeling the top, papery layer off. Make sure to leave enough paper on to keep the head intact. It’ll be wrapped in foil eventually, so if a few cloves separate, just jam ‘em back in and wrap tightly, but try to keep everything together.

Cover that lil’ buddy in 1-2 tsp olive oil, wrap it in tin foil, and bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. While that’s happening, get down to business with your sauce.

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SICILIAN TOMATO SAUCE

ground tomatoes
tomato paste
dried oregano
finely chopped garlic
sea salt
hand-crushed tomatoes*
large fresh basil leaf, torn**

Additions:
1 head garlic
2 tsp olive oil
Crackers

*We used store-bought crushed because it’s November and ain’t nobody selling fresh tomatoes in the Northern hemisphere in November
** We forgot this part. We bet it’s really delicious. Dangit.

SPEAKING OF IMPROVISING, we decided to serve our sauce at room temp. If it’s a cold evening and you’d like your sauce warm to go with the warm roasted garlic, feel free to leave the tomatoes in their un-pureed forms and warm in a saucepan on the stove.

OK. Back to mixin’. The recipe calls for all ingredients to be pureed except for the crushed tomatoes and basil, but because we didn’t have fresh, fabulous tomatoes at our disposal, we pureed everything. And cough*forgotthebasil*cough, as we mentioned before.

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Once that’s mixed, it’s a waiting game for the garlic to be ready. You’re looking for it to be golden brown, and you want the garlic to be able to squeeze out of each clove.

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Presentation is in the eye of the beholder (or something like that), so from here on out, fly, little birdies, fly. The way that we did it was to spoon a little sauce onto each cracker, spread a roasted garlic clove on top, and eat the heck out of it. In hindsight, try putting the garlic on the bottom, so spreading it doesn’t cause a tomato sauce spill. Your result should be salty, sweet (from the tomatoes), herbacious, and savory. Of course, your choice of cracke will take the dish in any direction desired. We went with salted water crackers from Central Market.

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So what have we learned today, friends? When it comes to cooking, go with the flow, and expect the unexpected. And take lots of backup pictures, because sometimes you’ll both look ridiculous, and it’ll be too late to change it before you’ve eaten the whole sample dish. LIFE LESSONS.

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All books mentioned in this post are available via bookpeople.com and on the shelves at BookPeople (603 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin, Texas).

Next course: Side Dishes! 

One thought on “BookPeople Feast: Sicilian Tomato Sauce

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