Painting a Vegetable Sauce Picture

The early weekend always seems like the time to take a breath and to regroup from the work week’s activities.  Sat is psychological down-time, a shift away from the busyness of the week and into activities that feel sustaining.

My instinct on Sat is to take stock of the ingredients in the frig that I can easily transform into simple, satisfying and elegant fare.  Wonderful vegetables lurk in the corners, perhaps in somewhat small quantities, that need to be used while still fresh.

Great quality canned tomatoes (Muir Glen, Dei Fratelli) that are deeply flavorful and not watery are a terrific foundation, a palette, for an infinite variety of simple sauces.  So, today I had leeks, organic carrots, sweet onions and haricot vert (young, thin green beans) as ‘colors’ with which to paint the picture.

A simple saute of leeks, onions and chopped garlic, reduced with a bit of red wine, create the foundational layer upon which it’s easy to build.  Add one or two large cans of plum tomatoes to simmer.  Slice peeled carrots into matchstick pieces and add with enough vegetable stock to create a liquid consistency.  The addition of stock intensifies the overall flavor of the finished sauce.

When I was harvesting basil at season end, that which did not end up as pesto I froze as individual leaves then stored them in sealed bags in the freezer.  They crumble and cut easily, and make a great addition to the sauce without having to buy fresh basil which, of course, is a readily available option.  Add crumbled, dried oregano, salt and pepper to taste.  About 5 minutes before you project the end of cooking time, add the haricot vert.

I discovered marlin steaks in, of all places, Costco, on The Big Island when I was in Hawaii two years ago at a conference.  My friend and I stayed at a beautiful condo and grilled the marlin steaks very slowly as they were 1-1/2″ thick.  Surprisingly, I found marlin at Costco in Cincinnati, and the steaks were 1/2″ thick, which conveniently lent them to a quick saute instead of needing to slow grill.

The marinara sauce has great utility with chicken, pasta, gnocchi, rice, polenta and numerous other grains, and can easily become meals of great variety.

What kind of picture can you paint with ingredients you have on hand?

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