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It’s been a while since store bought pasta sauce has entered my stomach. Why bother with the overly sweet stuff on the supermarket shelves, when you can make it at home, to taste?

Our cupboard is always home to at least one or two large cans of whole tomatoes, which are easily sauce-able. And though I’m an advocate of fresh produce, a tomato sauce from the canned goodies surpasses the ‘real’ deal when examining their respective price/quality ratios.

The secret is that there is no secret. No ‘recipe’, either, but I always start out with:

one large can of whole tomatoes (of the 28oz variety)
about 4-5 cloves of garlic
one goodly sized onion
canola or olive oil, depending on what my hand reaches first

Our trusty wok has been my cooking instrument of choice, as its large capacity easily handles the sauce. To start, I brown the garlic and onions with the hot oil: these two tasties have been chopped, depending on my mood, anywhere from a fine mince, to a chunky dice. Once the onions are verging on translucency, I dump the contents of the can into the hot wok, and usually spice it with a combination of basil, oregano, thyme, and black pepper. At this point, I’ll usually start attacking the tomatoes with a wooden spatula to poke them into the right size – leaving chunks can be rather tasty, too, especially if I’ve opted for the coarsely chopped onions. This step can actually be done whenever, really. After a stir or two, I turn the stove to a medium-ish setting, so that the tomatoes are left to simmer (watch out for a very red splattered kitchen when boiling tomatoes on high).

And then, it’s just a matter of patience!

I usually stir the concoction every once in a while, and about 30-40 minutes later, most of the watery substance will be gone. A little bit of sugar will be added to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. On various occasions of sauce or stock making, I’ve made the mistake of adding too much salt, too early on, forgetting about the reduction of volume that is to occur – so I usually stick to adding salt near the end.

Simple? Yes! Multipurpose? Also, yes!
This stuff works wonders on pizza, too.

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Bread machines are awesome! The boy’s pizza crust has only improved/diversified over the past year, and this last (herbed) rendition was topped with roasted garlic, onions, mushrooms, and cheddar.

Vegetarian Thai dinner, for a vegetarian friend’s birthday. Where else in Montreal, but Chu Chai?

Located at 4088 Saint Denis (between Duluth and Rachel), the restaurant was packed, naturally, on a Friday night. The restaurant is victim to the Chinese floor plan syndrome (I overheard the waitstaff in Cantonese): business mentality of cramming more people than allowed by fire regulation policies. Not only did I worry about knocking people (and their dinners) over while squeezing my way to the restroom, we were made to wait 90 minutes before our orders were taken. But I should backtrack slightly: the birthday girl made reservations for 7:30, for 11 of us – and half of our party was standing at the door for 40 minutes because they only had a 6-person table available. Do ‘reservations’ not mean anything? Half an hour of waiting later, the waitstaff mumbled something about compensating our inconvenience with free drinks. That offer, they quickly retracted. And we ended up having to barter for a discount: at first, they agreed to 10% off all drinks (what does that work to, 50 cents per person?), and finally 10% of the final tab. Role reversal indeed: aren’t restaurant owners supposed to alleviate the situation and win-over their frustrated patrons? I’ve never heard of customers having to bargain for a discount when clearly they have been wronged.

Poor service aside, their pad thai was quite delicious, as was another noodle-ly concoction ordered by the boy: it sported generous amounts of thai basil, and imitation duck. I started with their tom yum nam khon- hot & sour soup with coconut milk, which was good, but I had slight doubts: I suspect that their broth sits in a giant vat, and the remaining ingredients of desired soup-type (soup with mock seafood/meat/tofu/etc) are tossed into the bowl of pre-ladled soup. Not impressed with the undercooked mushrooms, and wished the soup came piping hot. Washing the meal down with Tsing Tao, however, was definitely a good call.

Highlight of the evening, of course, was good company. And the backgammon and key lime pie: mmm.

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