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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.

no knead breadThe boy, dorkusmagnus, was quite excited to try his professor’s bread recipe.

At McGill, there are a handful of courses offered by the chemistry department that cover tidbits of everyday trivia-type stuff. This semester, these ‘world of chem’ lectures included one on food (incidentally, it’s available for the public online). Having been stuck on a baking phase for the past while, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when the boy excitedly directed my attention to a bread recipe passed down from Prof. Harpp’s mother.

One caveat: we don’t own enamelled cast iron cookware. And this recipe calls for the baking to occur in such a device. And, as much as these things are beautiful and durable through decades and are certainly heavy enough to implement in knocking-out-home-invaders, it was going to be a little bit of an investment. A purchase that had to be planned in advance, anyway, since we’re living on budgets fit for student living. (A Cruset, along with a good quality espresso maker, are among many kitchen toys we’re considering for September.)

Time to get creative: He reached for the wok. Bread in a wok? Well, the wok is rather large, and cast iron, so it implies that the final temperature of the cooking vessel will be a little higher, no? And it has a lid (which was necessary, since the first part of the baking is done with a lid on). I confess I was a little skeptical since I’m sure the expansion/contraction rates of the glass lid differed from the metal trimming. But we’ve had several loaves of this stuff since the first baking, and the lid is still (quite) intact. And the bread’s been getting tastier. Nothing beats fresh bread for breakfast, especially when the boy decides to wake up an hour before me to bake a loaf that was left to rise overnight. I do believe my ancestors would be proud of this clever wok usage, resulting in yummy, crusty bread without fail.

Here’s the recipe (all measurements are approximations – the best way is to fiddle with it for a loaf or two, and tweak until complete satisfaction!):

4 cup flour
1/2 tsp yeast
2 tsp salt
2 cup water

comes out perfectly every time.Mix the ingredients in a large bowl: since this recipe doesn’t require the dough to be kneaded, it’s a good idea to mix everything thoroughly enough so you don’t end up with extremely salty bits here and there. Cover the mixed dough with a damp towel, and let it sit for anywhere between 9 to 15 hours – the boy plops it in the oven (off, of course) overnight, as the oven stays at a relatively stable temperature despite open windows and such. Once you’ve exerted all of that patience, the dough is put into the cooking vessel – (insert enamelled cast iron pot here) in our case, the wok. Preheat the oven to 450F, or 500 if your oven lets you do so. The cooking times are about 30 minutes with the lid, then the lid is removed for the remaining 20 minutes (though for our oven, the last 20 have been shaved down to about 15).