My Other Red Sauce

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We’ve all made a red sauce or marinara, sometimes even referred to as spaghetti sauce. But to me there is another, equally important red sauce in my life, and today I’m sharing it with you.

It’s not for pasta, but instead, it is a sauce for meats – grilled meat, barbecued meat, smoked meat, and so forth.

It’s tomato based, but it’s spiced up with mustard powder and dried chile peppers. Intrigued? You should be. But be aware, it’s not for the faint of heart, or tastebuds.

This recipe is based on the one I originally followed in the Foods of the World Series, more specifically, American Cooking: The Great West.

I originally made a major change by omitting sugar. This sauce has no business being sweet! Hope you like it as much as we do!

Red Sauce
Adapted from The Great West

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 – 28 ounce cans high quality diced tomatoes
1 – 10 ounce can tomato purée
2 tablespoons ground yellow mustard seeds
Handful of dried red chile peppers, slightly crushed –
Chile de Arbol, Cayenne, or Chinese chile peppers

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Heat the oil in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté them for about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic, and stir them around until you smell garlic oil; you don’t want to burn the garlic.

Pour in the diced tomatoes and purée, then add the ground mustard and crushed chile peppers.

If you want, start with just a few whole peppers, perhaps, and cook the sauce until no liquid remains; it should be nice and thick.

It will only take about 30 minutes for the sauce to finish.

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Remove as many of the pods as you can.

Taste it for seasoning; I added 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

If you prefer heat, let the sauce sit overnight with the chile pods; remove them before heating and serving.

The sauce is spectacular with smoked turkey, pork ribs, grilled flank steak, even shrimp.

You’re welcome!

Tomato Beef Curry

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It’s not out of disrespect for Indian cuisine that I don’t often use recipes from my Indian cookbooks. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Indian cuisine is our favorite cuisine, if we had to pick only one. As a result, I quite often turn a soup into a curried soup, lentils into curried lentils, or seafood crepes into a curried version. And I don’t mean simply adding curry powder.

Cooking Indian food is about being familiar with Indian ingredients. When I began cooking, I followed recipes in order to learn about Indian cuisine as well as other international cuisines, but now that I’ve been cooking for almost 40 years, I enjoy creating Indian-inspired dishes without relying on recipes.

I want to point out that I’m very aware of the various regional cuisines, meat-based and vegetarian, that exist in India, from the south to the north, from west coast to east. So of course I’m generalizing when I refer to its cuisine when there isn’t only one.

My first experiences were from this ancient cookbook, from the Time-Life Foods of the World series.

Eventually I purchased other cookbooks over the years, and that’s when I figured out that many recipes – again, generalizing – are similar. Most begin with onion, ginger, and garlic, for example, cooked in clarified butter, or ghee.

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A meat, poultry or seafood curry can be prepared in a yogurt-based sauce, or one that is tomato based. Some are enriched with creamed nuts, like almonds or cashews, which are some of my favorites.

Regarding spices, there are many. Cumin, cardamom, coriander (seeds and leaf), turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, pepper, garam masala (as varied as curry powder), cloves, fennel, saffron, and more. Some recipes contain many spices, some only 3-4.

Sometimes chile peppers are included for heat – both fresh and dried. But, of course, the temperature can be controlled.

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So following is an example of an easy beef dish in a curried tomato sauce. It was done in 15 minutes.

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Tomato Beef Curry

6 ounces ghee, divided
1 1/2 pounds beef tenderloin, cut into cubes
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 – 1″ piece of fresh ginger, diced
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon black pepper
Cayenne, to taste
4 ounces drained diced tomatoes
4 ounces tomato purée
2 teaspoons garam masala
Fresh cilantro, optional

Heat 3 ounces of ghee in a heavy pot over high heat. In batches, brown the cubed beef, then place in a bowl until all the beef has browned; set aside.

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In the same pot, add the remaining ghee and lower the heat to medium-low. Sauté the onion, ginger, and garlic for a few minutes, being careful not to let them brown.

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Then add the salt, spices and, if using, cayenne pepper. Stir well and cook for about 1 minute.

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Add the diced tomatoes and purée. Stir, then let the mixture cook at a gentle simmer for about 5 minutes.

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You want the mixture fairly thick. Because I am using beef tenderloin in this recipe, the cooking time is minimal.

Add the browned beef from the bowl, including all juices, to the sauce.

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Stir to coat the beef and cook for about ten minutes, uncovered; the beef should be tender. Remove from the heat.

Just before serving, add the garam masala and stir.

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Normally I would sprinkle fresh cilantro leaves over the curry, but I decided instead to make a cilantro rice as a side dish, seasoned only with cumin and coriander.

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If this dish is too meaty for you, chickpeas can be added.

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If you want the dish creamier, you can add some heavy cream, a bit of yogurt, or even creme fraiche to the sauce.

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Many years ago I turned friends on to Indian cuisine, and my friend Claire bugged me to show her how to “cook” Indian. I told her that there is no difference in cooking techniques with Indian cooking, but she didn’t seem to believe me. So she came over once, and we cooked maybe 4-5 dishes. And we had a wonderful dinner. Her verdict? She wasn’t impressed! I don’t know what she thought I’d be doing in the kitchen, but it’s the same pots and pans, knives and spoons. She now cooks Indian food! Everyone should!

Pumpkin Pasta Alfredo

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I am a sucker for unique pasta shapes. I just can’t help myself. Traditional varieties are also fun, like bucatini and radiatore, but if I come across pumpkin-shaped pasta, like I did recently at Trader Joe’s, I just have to grab it.
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I wasn’t sure how sturdy the little pumpkin pastas would be once cooked, so I didn’t want to make a really heavy sauce. Instead I decided on the recipe that first introduced me to fettuccine al burro, also known as alfredo sauce, from the Italian cookbook of the Time-Life Foods of the World Cookbook. The word burro reminds me of donkeys, so I prefer the term alfredo!

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The recipe is really straight-forward. It’s practically equal parts butter, cream, and Parmesan. Yes, it’s pretty rich. You’re welcome.
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Pumpkin Pasta Alfredo
Adapted from The Cooking of Italy

8 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly and finely grated Parmesan
14 ounces dried pasta, cooked according to the package
Freshly grated Parmesan

Cream the softened butter by beating it vigorously against the sides of a large, heavy bowl with a wooden spoon until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the cream a little at a time, and then, a few tablespoonfuls at a time, beat in the grated cheese.


Cover the bowl and set it aside. It needs to stay at room temperature.
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Cook the pasta, test for bite, then drain in a colander.
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Place the hot pasta in the bowl with the creamed butter and cheese mixture and toss gently until the pasta is evenly coated.

Taste and season generously with salt and pepper; I used a little salt and white pepper.
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You can also add thinly-sliced white truffle, which is included in the original recipe.
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I instead added a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg.
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Offer extra grated cheese because, you can never have too much cheese!

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Note: I came across pumpkin-shaped pasta at Williams-Sonoma a week or so after I purchased this package at Trader Joe’s. It was almost five times the price!