One of the good habits I brought back with me from Italy and have kept up – unlike ironing – is how I cook. More specifically, this refers to food items that I now make myself instead of purchase in a jar. They include salad dressing and a basic tomato sauce. Why? They taste better. You know exactly what is inside them. And it feels good. When it comes to the basics, it’s quite easy to pass up the jar and do it yourself.
Vinaigrette salad dressing: Pour a cup of extra virgin olive oil into a small bowl (local if possible tastes the best, in my opinion. We get our olive oil at the local farmers market and it comes from the olive orchards in Corning, Northern California). Pour half cup of red wine vinegar (any will do). Add dried oregano, a small teaspoon of dijon mustard, a few teaspoons of honey, a garlic clove (or less, depending on your taste) chopped finely, and salt and pepper. Whisk together in a small bowl or shake in a jar. Play with the amounts and see what works for you. Tonight we tossed our dressing with our own lettuce and arugula from the backyard garden, and it tasted heavenly!
Basic summer tomato sauce: Place peeled, diced, very ripe Roma-style tomatoes (in can – we like Italbrand – or from the garden or market) in a pan. Salt and cook tomatoes until the water is mostly evaporated. (Americans like sauce runny, Italians do not. I side with the Italians on this one.) At the end of cooking, add a bit of extra virgin olive oil and hand-torn basil. If the tomatoes are good quality and well matured, the sauce will be delicious. It’s all about the ingredients. Use as a basic sauce to add to, or as is, mixed with spaghetti or pasta of your choice.