After a solid week of hearing, "Sorry, we're not hiring right now," I was beyond stoked to find out I had made it through to the fourth round of this competition (thanks so much to all of you who have helped me get this far!). It was just the news I needed to perk up my wilted spirits. But the news also left me beyond stumped when it came to deciding what to do for this next round because it is way outside my comfort zone. This week's challenge is called "Picture Perfect". Well, I like taking pictures of food, so that seems easy enough. Then they hit me with this: create a step-by-step instructional photo tutorial.
Sure, it might seem easy to some so my panic may appear to be a bit ridiculous. But I'm one of those "writing-centric" bloggers who paints pictures with her words and uses photos to accent those words, not the other way around. I am a natural story-teller and I love that my writing engages my readers and keeps them coming back for more. That and the fact that I live alone with two cats whose paws don't sport those ever-so-handy opposable thumbs to help with the in-progress shots, made this challenge even more intimidating to me. For days, I stewed, I fretted, I tossed and I turned, trying to decide what exactly to post for this particular round of the competition.
So a day at the Whaley Farm was pretty much like a day at Disneyland for me. There, I helped Milt pick, process and pack a veritable rainbow of different tomatoes, from Lemon Boys to Green Zebras to Purple Russians. After a full day of working behind-the-scenes at a tomato farm and enjoying a lovely dinner with Milt and his family, I was sent home with my own large bundle of fine heirloom tomatoes. I had every intention of just eating them on their own or throwing them in salads, but a thick, rich arrabbiata seemed like a much better idea.
So without further ado in the "words" department, let's check out how to make a delicious arrabbiata sauce step-by-step, from vine to table.
Penne with Heirloom Tomato Arrabbiata Sauce (serves 4; total cost per serving: $1.95)
6-8 lbs ripe heirloom tomatoes
3 small hot red chiles, finely chopped
4 t crushed red chile flakes
1 c finely chopped onion
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 t dried oregano
2/3 c dry red wine
1 T salt
1 t sugar
3 T olive oil
1 T chopped fresh basil
3 c cooked penne pasta (preferably whole wheat, but white will also do in a pinch)
Salt & pepper to taste
First, pick your produce...
|Lovely ripe tomatoes from the Whaley Family Farm...|
|The best ones like to hang out toward the bottom of the vine...|
|Ridiculously cute - and hot - peppers from Poor Girl's urban garden...|
|The last of my sweet summer basil...|
|Heirloom tomato heaven!|
|Chop 3 large cloves of garlic...|
|... and about 1 cup of onions (preferably yellow)...|
|... and, of course, those fiery little peppers.|
Then, blanch the tomatoes...
|Start boiling water in a large pot or soup tureen...|
|Prepare a large bowl or other receptacle with ice water (the more ice, the better!)...|
|Score the bottoms of each tomato with an "x" shaped cut (this allows the boiling water to penetrate the tomato more easily, facilitating the separation of the skin for easier peeling)...|
|Using a slotted spoon, gently add the tomatoes into the rapidly boiling water and blanch for no more than 60 seconds...|
|After 60 seconds, or when the tomato skins begin to separate from the flesh, remove the tomatoes using your slotted spoon and dunk them in the bowl with ice water.|
|Allow the tomatoes to cool in the ice water for about a minute or so, then move to a separate bowl for the next step.|
Peel & seed tomatoes...
|Tomatoes are kind little fruits: they will start doing the peeling for you...|
|(Peeled tomatoes awaiting seeding & chopping)|
|Slice the tomatoes in half, remove the seeds, and make a glorious, tomato-y mess...|
|Chopped tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions, dried oregano, salt, crushed chile flakes and, of course, red wine. |
You're ready to start cooking!
|Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, garlic and onions...|
|...followed by the fresh chiles, crushed chile flakes, salt, sugar and oregano...|
|Next, add the wine...|
|... and, of course, the tomatoes!|
|Stir until well combined...|
|... and simmer over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until you have a thick, chunky sauce.|
About 10 minutes in, start to cook the penne...
|The sauce is pretty awesome on its own, but it's best when paired with some penne pasta...|
|When pasta is cooked, drain and drizzle generously with olive oil for extra flavor and to prevent it from sticking together.|
Finish the sauce...
|During the last 5-7 minutes of cooking, add the fresh chopped basil and stir together; check for flavor and adjust accordingly with salt & freshly ground pepper...|
|Soon afterwards your arrabbiata sauce is done! Thick, rich, spicy, tomato-y perfection!|
|Remove from heat and place in a separate, pretty bowl and stare at the remarkable fruits of your labor...|
|Serve a generous amount of sauce on a heaping plate of freshly cooked penne|
and garnish with extra sprigs of fresh basil...
|Take one last picture because you're completely obsessed with the natural beauty of this dish....|
Whew! Mission accomplished! As you can see, I stayed true to my regular PGEW style and pretty much deconstructed my usual recipe method by adding pictures. Though the lighting in my kitchen is rather horrendous and the batteries in my "good" camera died right before I set about working on this post, I still think I was able to clearly convey the process of making a homemade pasta sauce from fresh tomatoes. Like I said before, it's one thing to make a pasta sauce "from scratch" using canned goods; it's quite another to make it from scratch.
And even if it took me a few hours to do all of this by myself, working as both chef and photographer (cooking with your non-dominant hand while trying to properly engage the shutter button with the other as cats wind between your legs trying to trip you because you've ignored them all day is definitely what I'd call a "challenge"), I must say I'm proud of the fact that I was able to do it all by myself with my own two hands. From the picking to the processing to the photographing, everything in this post is 100% me; no special equipment or anything. Just Poor Girl doing the best that she can with what she has on hand.
And you know what? That's what my blog has always been about: making the most of a potentially scary situation. I hope it inspires you to do the same in your own endeavors! Thanks for reading!
If you enjoyed this recipe post, please take the time to cast your vote for PGEW starting at 6am Pacific time on October 11th. As always, I will provide a special post with a link to the voting page, but you can also vote for me by using the widget on the left sidebar. Thanks in advance! - Kimberly