It's Rough Being an Alaskan

It's Rough Being an Alaskan
King Crab stock with Kaffir Lime & Coriander for Thai Bisque

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Cook's Day Off: To Eat or Not to Eat?

I have been reading way too many food magazines; they are making hungry for everything. This is getting really bad, because I start salivating over pictures and descriptions of food I see! When I have a day off (like today), the fridge and pantry receive much  investigating and debating on "what's for dinner!" I can't decide on a simple tomato and Italian sausage pasta or salmon with butter-parsley sauce or braised pork shoulder in red wine with dried cherries. I love cooking on my day's off; I must be crazy or something, but getting to cook without someone or something dictating what I have to prepare is simply the best!
Munching on a handful of unhealthy yet deliciously chewy Milk Duds, it's back to reading some more.

One hour late and looking out the window from my post on the very comfortable couch littered with foodie reading, I'm reminded again why I love Juneau, Alaska. On a clear, sunny day with the moutains stretching high and mighty and the clouds like marshmallow fluff there's no where else I would rather be cooking dinner.
Since, it's a cold and am a bit tired from the long week, I have decided it's pasta tonight.
My husband loves pasta, he could probably eat a pound himself, and it can be made in a quick "Rachel Ray" 30 minutes. I'm not sure why most people like to stew the death out of tomtato sauce; I enjoy a quick braise so you can tast the briny tomatoes and the sharp bite of herbs.
A few tips that make the best tomato sauce: use the Italian brand tomatos that are plum-shaped and chop them yourself because the flavor is so much better; stir in a lump of salted butter at the end of the pasta; and season with herbs in the beginning and finale of your sauce. A lot of people argue about keeping ingredients minimal in tomato sauce; I feel the vegetable's natural sweetness deeply enhances the flavor.

Tomato Fresca Sauce
Serves 2-4 depending on how hungry you are!

3 large cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1/2 of a sweet yellow onion, fine diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 rib of celery, diced
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Heat a medium heavy-bottom sauce pot with the olive oil to medium. Add in all the ingredients listed above and saute until the carrots and onions have begun to soften and turn golden. Season to taste gently with salt and pepper.
Pour in:
1 cup good red wine
Simmer for 5 minutes or until alchohol has evaporated
Stir in:
1 28 oz. can of Italian plum tomatoes in the their juice, finely chopped (or throw them in a food process and lightly puree)
1 tbs. brown sugar
1 bay leaf

Simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft and mellow.  Stir in 1/4 cup fresh chopped sweet basil and 2 tbs. salted butter. Remove the bay leaf and check seasonings, add additional salt, pepper, red pepper flakes if desired.

To serve with pasta: cook 1 pound of your favorite pasta until al dente in salted water, toss pasta and sauce together over low heat until pasta has absorbed the sauce and is well coated (1-2 minutes), you can also stir in a spoonful of the pasta cooking water if you want it extra saucy; garnish with fresh grated parmesan and an additional sprinkling of fresh basil.

Note: this sauce is excellent with grilled Italian Sausages, as a base for baked pasta dishes (i.e. lasagna, eggplant parmegiana, etc.), ravioli, on top of grilled chicken or vegetables, you get the jest of it!

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