Saturday, July 24, 2010

Random Willy-Nillyness Cooking Presents: Putting up tomatoes

This weekend has me all crazy. Tom is away so that means I have to do all the crappy things he usually does like change the litter, take out trash, water the garden and pick more veggies. Blah!

To top it off, I also have to do work work since we are under a deadline and need to have some stuff done before Monday. So I said I would work on it this weekend. That's how dedicated I am. Then I have to clean the house, HA! The DIRECTV guy is coming out to fix our satellite and I have the usual nonsense to do like laundry and blogging.

Then I had 3 baskets of tomatoes to deal with. So what to do, what to do. Multi-task, of course. So between blogging about what I have to do, I am doing what I am blogging about. That includes putting up tomatoes for the winter.

I did this last year but back then, I had tons of time. But although it is work intensive, there is nothing like pulling out a Ziploc bag from the freezer when it's snowing and making fresh pasta sauce. YUMMY!

Last year, I searched for an easy way to do it since I was clueless. I went to one of my favorite food websites: Southern Plate. The method they had was the best I found. All you do is get your tomatoes, put them in simmering water until the skin pops and then take them out. Let them cool, take off the skin and then cut them into tiny pieces, place in a Ziploc freezer bag and that's it! It cannot get any easier than that unless, of course, someone else did it for me. But fat chance!

I am also making some spaghetti sauce. The reason this is Random Willy-Nilly Cooking is that I am just doing it without a recipe and just winging it! My cooking style is random and willy-nilly and always has been. I cannot follow a recipe to save my life. I have made food from recipes but somehow I always add a little of this and a pinch of that and can never completely follow instructions. Tom, of course, would say I never follow instructions or directions in anything and not just cooking but that's how he rolls.

I am actually a pretty good cook. I mainly learned from my mom and grandmother. I would watch them in the kitchen when I was a little girl and picked up pointers. I also learned by watching my great aunts and cousin Flora in Costa Rica. My other mentor is the Food Network. I could watch it all day and have picked up tons of pointers.

I cook by taste. I think I inherited that from my mother's side of the family. Although I would watch my mom and grandmother use recipes, I also watched them make them better by adding stuff here and there. In between the cooking, they always let me taste the food. I think that's how I probably developed my palate. I would always suggest another pinch of that and a smidgen of this. That's how I do it. It is hard for me to recreate one of my dishes. Anything I make will always come out a little differently every time I cook it.

So I can't tell you how I made my Spaghetti Sauce today except to say that I chopped some garlic, onions and green peppers and let them saute in olive oil. Then I added the tomatoes and fresh basil from the garden and let it cook. I added a pinch of ground black pepper, a pinch or 4 of salt, garlic powder, onion powder and a few other spices. Then I let it cook down until it was absolutely delicious.

I also cooked my favorite thing in the world today: Olla de carne. This is a traditional Costa Rican dish. It is basically a soup/stew made with meat and veggies. I opted out of the veggies this time and decided just to make the soup with oxtails, onions, garlic and fresh cilantro. I added salt, pepper and a few other spices. I make this anytime Tom is out of town because he refuses to eat oxtail although it is probably one of the best cuts of meat you can possibly eat. But I understand, oxtail is an acquired taste like tripe or pigs feet. But I love them all. Unfortunately, I have no potatoes in the house because I love potatoes in my olla de carne. But I have to make do with what I have since I have to sit here waiting for the DIRECTV guy who is hours late already and can't leave the house to get some. BOO! Anyhow, you serve the olla de carne with rice and a side of tortillas and it is HEAVEN!!

Olla de Carne is my ultimate comfort food. I love it and it always takes me back to when I was a little girl. Mi abuelita, Gilda, would always make it on special occasions. And when we went to Costa Rica my other abuelita, Anita, and my cousin, Flora, used to make it for us as well. You actually serve everything separately and then the diners start building their meal. Ever since I was a little girl, I only liked my olla de carne with rice, potatoes and meat. I never liked all the other stuff in it because I felt it detracted from the soup itself. But I am picky that way. It can be made so many different ways so you don't really need a recipe just a few choice ingredients and you have the most fantastic meal ever!

The house is smelling amazing as I write this. Smells of basil, garlic, onion and tomatoes are filling the rooms. The smell of the oxtail is all over as well. I was able to put up 2 gallons of tomatoes and one gallon and one quart of spaghetti sauce today! YAY! Dinner is waiting so I am out of here!


  1. So jealous of all of the veggie goodness that you have had. We seem to have fried everything with the exrteme heat here. Everything you made look delicious - enjoy!

  2. I oo learned from my mami. I used to watch her cook. My papi cooked more though. I believe I got the "cooking gene" from my abuelo and papi.

    I love how you have incorporated such fresh veggies and herbs to your dishes. MMmm makes my mouth water. There is nothing like the aromas of fresh herbs, especially Basil! Basil is a favorite of mine next to cilantro. I can throw cilantro in anything! LOL shhh.. don't tell anybody.

    As for oxtails, gosh, I LOVE oxtails. Never had them Costa Rican stle, always Jamaican. I must try them your way. They look delish.

    Thanks for sharing your tips and dishes.

  3. Does it freeze and pack and send well to midwestern states by the name of Michigan?

  4. If you ever take the time to write out your spagetti sauce recipe (Hint, Hint) please, please, PLEASE let me know. I think it would go so well with my meatballs and some wheat pasta. Aye Sabroso!!!!