Mmmm....bread. The staff of life. There was a time when bread really could sustain lilfe, back before the Wonderbread folks came along and started making that foam rubber stuff. Back when women (mostly) ground their own wheat by hand and mixed up the hearty stuff that was full of wheat germ and some husk and maybe a little honey (to feed the yeast) ...or probably sourdough, where they lassoed the little yeastie beasties that were in the air and put them to work making that heavenly chewy crusty bread that only sourdough can make. I get so much primal satisfaction from making my own bread, I can't even put it into words. The mixing, the kneading, the smells... the pure joy of pulling that finished loaf out of the oven in it's perfection. This artisan bread is easier in a lot of ways and though I miss kneading bread, my old joints don't miss it so much. I still make regular bread from time to time, but this stuff is so good...
We're in the middle of January and the weather has finally turned winter-like. Mostly. These cold evenings, when my husband comes home from his 10 hour shifts, I like to have a good hot meal waiting for him. One of his favorites is spaghetti. He's not a big pasta guy. Doesn't particularly like noodle casseroles or even fettucine Alfredo. But he LOVES spaghetti. So I make it at least a couple of times a month or more. During the gardening season, I always can marinara and I always can tomatoes--whole, sauced, combined with okra and onions, someimes juice. I also dry tomatoes, and love to throw a handfull of them into sauces and soups.
So, anyhoo...it was time to make supper and I thought, well--I'll make Puttanesca. Puttanesca translates to "sauce of the whores", so that's fun all by itself. Puttanesca is sauce made with whatever you happen to have on hand. The working girls, (as legend has it) were always very poor, and would make spaghetti becasue it was cheap and could be stretched to feed a lot of people, or kept to feed themselves for several days. So they would dig through the cabinets and pantries and coolers and find whatever they could to make their sauces . They could rarely afford meat, so the sauce is usually a vegetarian marinara. But if you find some ground beef or sausages--throw them in!
I rarely put meat in my spaghetti sauce. Once in a while, I will cook some Italain sausages for himself, because he does like them. But he also likes thick chunky marinara sauce, loaded with vegetables.
Here's what I made this time:
Rummaging around in the fridge, I found a few mushrooms, about half a can of black olives that I had sliced when I made burritos the other day, a good sized carrot--do you know about putting carrot into your marinara? I usually grate it, but sometimes I just slice it. Carrot magically neutralizes the acid in tomato based sauces. So if marinara bothers your stomach, this might help.
I chopped a large yellow onion, 7 cloves of garlic, red-yellow-green bell peppers from my freezer. I sauteed these along with the mushrooms and carrot in a little olive oil. Then I opened a jar of home canned whole tomatoes, a jar of sauce and opened another pint jar of [what I thought was] diced tomatoes. I just didn't look at ity closely, to tell the truth --I was in my zone....LOL Turned out that it was a pint of tomatoes, okra and onions. Oops. No matter--I tossed it into the pot as well. I simmered it all together for about 35 minutes. I LOVE a good chunky spaghetti sauce, don't you? Something you can really sink your teeth into.
While that was going on, I got the stuff out and made a delightful salad of a red arugula looking lettuce and romaine. Cucumber, onion, carrot, celery. A tomato vinaigrette dressing. Then I cooked the pasta, after I put the first 2 of the 3 loaves of bread into the oven. Can you imagine the smells?
When the Irishman came in the door, he nearly dropped to his knees. All he said was "I'm starving"
He went out to lock up the chickens for the night and by the tinme he finished washing up and getting out of his work clothes, I had the table set with candles, all the food and accoutrements (butter, shredded parm, etc), drinks...and we dined like royalty. I would take a guess that this supper maybe cost $5.00 to make. And it was better than anything I have ever eaten in a fancy restaurant...
It is more than possible to eat well on a budget. The possibilities are endless.....
Bon Apetit !