Today I attempted and I believe accomplished my first vodka pasta sauce.
Vodka sauce is somewhat prolific here in NYC and features my favourite beverage – vodka – in a creamy, tomato concoction that tastes like nothing you’ve ever eaten before. I’m sure it will be one of my strongest culinary associations with this city – it appears on pasta, pizza, meat.. anything.
The reason for the vodka is the same as the reason many Italian dishes call for red wine – to unlock the flavours in the tomatoes that are otherwise hidden. Or because you just love vodka like I do.
My version does away with the heavy cream base and still gives you a lovely rich consistency that coats the pasta in pure, sweet, creamy deliciousness.
I made mine completely from scratch because I had some overripe tomatoes I wanted to put to use, but if you are stuck for time – tinned tomatoes can be substituted for fresh. For this qty I’d say 2 tins would be the equivalent.
Welcome Back Vodka Sauce
Qty for 4 portions. I refrigerated half before plating up to stop us going for seconds. 🙂
10 small very ripe vine-ripened tomatoes
1 onion, chopped fine
1 small tin tomato paste (the single serve size, don’t get too pedantic, it can only improve the flavour)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup vodka (I used Absolut – which is crazy cheap here – but you can use any reasonable tasting vodka. I would avoid super cheap vodkas even though you’re cooking it – you don’t want to compromise the balance of flavours for the sake of a few measly dollars..)
5 teaspoons grated parmesan reggiano cheese
1/2 cup no-fat Philadelphia cream cheese
Teaspoon of sugar (optional)
Fresh basil, shredded, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Pam cooking spray or similar
NB – You’ll need a blender or similar to blend the sauce into its trademark velvety consistency
Spray a medium sized saucepan with a light coating of cooking spray. On medium heat, brown chopped onion, then reduce heat to low and add tomatoes, whole, with bay leaves set atop, to the pan. Cover and allow to simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally to redistribute tomatoes and allow all to cook evenly. By the end of the hour they should be just falling apart with the skins and seeds falling into a gorgeous melee of aromatic tomato mush. Of course, if you’re using tinned tomatoes you can simply add these to your browned onion and move on to the next step.
Now you can add the tomato paste. Fill the can or container that the paste came in with water*, and add to the mixture, and repeat – keep doing this throughout the process if you feel the sauce is getting too thick as it boils and reduces away. By the way – don’t be scared if the water does keep disappearing – this is what you want! It means what’s left is even more concentrated and will be even more delicious. Also add at this point the garlic and vodka, bring to the boil for 5-6 minutes and then turn right down to a simmer again.
*If you’re a meat eater – you can substitute water for chicken stock to add another layer to the flavour of the sauce. Just be sure to taste your sauce before you add additional salt – bought chicken stock is usually loaded with sodium.
Allow the sauce to simmer for 20 minutes then remove bay leaves and stir through the grated cheeses and Philadelphia. Once combined – at least mostly – you can pour into the blender. You know that useless removable clear plastic part of the blender lid? Take it off the lid so steam can escape, and place a piece of paper towel on top to prevent splatter. Blend the sauce until you no longer see pieces of skin, onion or those pesky tomato seeds floating past.
Pour the sauce back into the saucepan, and keep it on a low simmer. Here’s where you can have a bit of a play and add seasonings to your taste. I added a hefty pinch of cracked black pepper and ground sea salt, a teaspoon of sugar, and 3 tablespoons of shredded basil – but it’s completely up to your taste. I think that’s the fun part of cooking – making a carefully nuanced balance of sweet, salty, sour to suit your taste. If you’re not sure and it just tastes bland start with salt and pepper in small proportions, and add in tiny increments until you’re happy. If you’ve used tinned tomatoes you will definitely need the sugar to balance out the acidity. The aroma and natural sweetness of basil will also help lift the flavour. Stir and keep warm until served. The extra simmer time will not hurt the sauce, trust me. Tomatoes looooooove a long cooking time.
I cleaned then chopped four organic (& hormone and antibiotic free) chicken thighs into strips and cooked in a frypan before adding to the sauce. This plus the Quinoa pasta spirals made for a really amazing, relatively guilt free dinner to warm the heart and fill the stomach. Perfect welcome back… or don’t leave me.. dinner.
Now, what to do with the rest of that vodka….. ha!
Sounds like a cool name for a band, huh?
If you use it I promise I won’t sue you but I will ask that you include a mention and possibly photo of me inside your album sleeve. Another teenaged aspiration achieved. Adriana – 1, Adolescent Angst – 0
Now I’m on a winning streak – I hope you’ll forgive me for this tardy recollection. Forgive me, it’s been two days since this actually happened, so I may in fact exaggerate, or distort facts for my own amusement, for a change.
Our lovely downstairs neighbours, Derek and Shaniqua (changed to protect their identity, I always wanted a friend named Shaniqua, as a side note), invited us to come to a baseball game to which of course we said yes. I had forgotten we had made such an arrangement until Shaniqua helpfully reminded us on the weekend. Thank heavens for her. Seriously.
Neither of us had ever been to a baseball game and I had never even watched one (though I had schooled myself via The Simpsons and the Madonna-tastic A League of Their Own so was clearly an expert). Derek and Shaniqua also hadn’t visited Coney Island for ages, so were keen to see the sights.
Derek and I, being dutiful stay at home “wives” took the subway into Manhattan, picked up Shaniqua at her work (in the garment district – like Surry Hills if it was huge and nothing like Surry Hills) and walked the ten blocks to the husband’s workplace. Due to the incredible heat, and tourists milling like blinded cattle around the base of the Empire State Building (WALK IN A STRAIGHT LINE!) I was reduced to a particularly hot, hangry** mess by the time we got to the h-place.
The hangriness* subsided somewhat in the air conditioned ride on the F-train out to Coney Island where we were ecstatic to be received by the hot-dog stalwart Nathan’s.
Hot dogs are somewhat an institution here and strangely edible.
Oh, I know they’re like the roulette of meat products.
It hasn’t stopped me from enjoying them on a semi-regular basis – in fact I’ve had two since I’ve arrived here a month ago, and based on my previous rate of consumption (around once every ten years) I have increased my intake exponentially by the power of pi x infinity*** since leaving Australia.
The first hot dog I ate was at Costco, and it was $1.50 including a refillable soda pop (Diet Coke, of course) and was delicious.
The Nathan’s hot dog I would rate secondary to the Costco hot dog for two reasons:
1 – The price, which was comparable to a Harry’s pie v a Four and Twenty pie but without the extra mushy goodness to justify it
2 – The size, which matched my hand and not my forearm.
What gives, Nathan’s? I’m sure your founder, Nathan Handwerker, would be interested to know what his non-Polish cousin Peter Costco**** is up to.
The h also bought a poutin-type side dish to accompany his hot dog which was a sore-looking mess of crinkle-cut fries topped in bacon bits and (neon orange) American cheese. American cheese is excellent – when I asked what it was nobody could tell me. God bless America!
Anyway, back to our protagonist.
Sated, we ambled around to the stadium which was exactly like what you see in The Simpsons only with slightly more concrete, and Coney Island amusements in the background.
The Cyclones C team is a minor league team that has some promising members but on the whole plays like … well, me. Shows potential, but can’t catch a ball with a bucket. The only terminology I have to reference here is from my own juvenile exploits in primary school compulsory soft ball so I am excited to share with you my cultural analysis of the experience:
– everyone gets their own scoreboard graphic and theme music. Theme music best described as urban versions of “Coco Jambo” by Mr. President.
– Medieval Times, evidently a sponsor of the stadium, hands out free crowns in either red or blue, depending on which team you go for. They also had a halftime.. ahem.. show of knights in team colours sword fighting. I never thought I’d be one to say this, but it was a little exciting. There were sparks flying off their sword strikes, loud banging noises, grunting… it was AWESOME. It also appeals to my newfound love of cosplay which means I WILL be making the trip to Jersey to go to Medieval Times (more on that later) and also to the New York Renaissance Fair the day before I come back to Sydney. But like I said, more on that another time. SO. Excited.
– Various fried foods – corndogs, burgers (deceptively called sandwiches), fries, cheese on a stick, and the smell of your pants melting as your butt expands faster than the speed of light. Seriously, the only non-fried food options were a pretzel or ice-cream. Delicious, but hardly dietetic. Particularly after a hot dog main.
– Chatty McChat Chats – you go to a ball game to be heard, and not seen, so it’s important to note that there was a lady there actually wearing pyjamas, and several men that alternately either kindly let us eavesdrop on their oral history of baseball coaches or would graciously correct our conversational mis-steps.
We relished the game experience (reminds me – we saw a hot-dog race – Relish won but as Derek informed me – there is no winner, cause you need Ketchup, Mustard, AND Relish all together for a hot dog to be a winner) for about an hour then decided to split and take a stroll along the boardwalk.
Now, Coney Island is now a “cleaned” up version of its former self. That’s to say, it still attracts a colourful crowd and a fair chunk of that crowd is not familiar with the concept of a belt to hold their pants up.
The crowd itself I don’t mind (actually quite enjoy the people watching) but they clearly don’t understand the social mores of public ablutions.
There was one public toilet block open on the boardwalk by the time we left the game. Stupidly I had been deaf to the call of nature inside the stadium and once outside realised the urgency of about a litre of Diet Coke working its way through my kidneys and hitting my bladder.
Thinking quick, one gentleman had decided to pee on the door of the nearest closed facility. Shaniqua and I shuffled on to the open one, which is where I was greeted by the dirtiest, no, that’s not the word for it. The grungiest toilet block I have ever been into. One side of stalls was POLICE TAPED and a lady was still in there – possibly passed out, possibly dead. Who could know. The other side was fortunately available for use and featured the usual wet floor you encounter in public toilets (why is it that people don’t seem to be able to aim their crotch directly above the bowl? I get it, there’s no way I’d sit on the seat – if there is one – either, but you can’t get the pee in the toilet? Is your chakra misaligned? WHAT IS THE PROBLEM HERE?). I was wearing shoes that are easily hosed off, so wasn’t concerned with the wet floor. What was interesting was that I noticed the cleanest part of the bathroom – walls, door, empty toilet roll holder, etc.. WAS THE CEILING FAN. Which was covered in about 10cm (not kidding) of dust. But dust seems cleaner to me than miscellaneous body fluids, used gum, or sanitary refuse. Am I alone in this?
After a full body hand-sanitiser rub down we continued our promenade, walked through the amusements (I didn’t ride anything though the scariest would have to be the Cyclone – built in 1927 and wooden) and busted a move outside this awesome looking joint.
By then our Coney Island paradise had faded beyond dusk into darkness. The streets, still steamy, filled up with more slack waisted pant wearers, and their loud female accompaniments. We hailed a town car (possibly the only town car with no air con) and Shaniqua and I shang***** our little hearts out to the radio, to the wild bemusement of the driver who the h implored to have pity on him for having to live with me (sucker).
Then we were home. To the cleanest, coldest, sweetest place in Brooklyn that night.
* hangriness – (etymology: a combination of hungry + angry) when you are so hungry you feel like eating your own fist, which is ironic considering all you want to do is swing it at the nearest person.
** hangry – like hangriness but an adjective, instead of a poorly constructed noun
*** in case you have your calculator out, this is not really an accurate value but I haven’t done maths in a really long time. As a frame of reference, this value is inversely proportionate to the quality of my digestive health which is another story (and equally corrupt formula)
**** Not actually founded by someone called Peter Costco, some dudes named James and Jeffrey from Washington. Guys who clearly know their way around a hot dog…
***** shang – past tense of shing, when you shout + sing at the same time. Often a result of excessive ingestion of alcohol, in this case, heat induced delirium
Did you miss me?
I’ve been very busy, being sick. It takes extreme dedication for someone like me to stay home and do nothing, and as a result I cultivated a lovely mood which those close to me know is best avoided at all costs. Do not poke the bear. Do not pass the doorway in a jaunty fashion. Do not turn on any lights, or deign to laugh however funny I might look scowling over a glowing laptop in bed.
Seeing as I’m dead cert you want to know, I am feeling much better than I was now that I’m not cracking temperatures every day, and/or fretting about it. The former finally subsided yesterday, after some tentative visits to the outside world on husband’s orders. The latter development because I am journeying back to Australia for a thorough servicing, in early August.
Things that happened last week:
I bought a 42-piece Snapware set for $19.99 at mother of all grocery stores Costco. Note to self, not every piece needs to house rotting left overs, or at least, not all at the same time. Addendum: for those who have never seen a piece of Snapware, Australians in particular, you totally have you just never called it that. In fact, I don’t know what you would call it without using the ‘T’ word (Tupperware). Which I shouldn’t because both are licensed brands and of course like, totally different. But it looks like this:
I visited a judgemental doctor in Little Poland (Greenpoint) who when I asked for antibiotics for my sore throat and fevers prescribed what most doctors would prescribe had you contracted a nasty STD – hilarious. All because I had the audacity to ask for a script for birth control. Never did I think that as a 31-year old married woman I would be made to feel like a teenager for asking NOT to have a baby right now, thanks.
I saw Spiderman (excellent, but not a notch on Batman which I am dying to see) and found out the mayor is trying to outlaw super sized soft drinks in NYC. Of course this was after a well timed “Jesus, that’s a REGULAR???????” from me, from which point the candy bar attendant launched into an explanation which involved a derogatory comment about the Mayor. This pressing issue has stirred a wonderful debate amongst those who would like to exercise their liberty to choose a huge soda instead of a middling one, and spawned a plethora of clever t-shirts, pictured below:
I’ve seen people wearing these shirts everywhere – from the cinema to the markets, Costco and the chemist. This campaign by New Yorkers for Beverage Choices is excellent, and I think the muscly guy holding the soda (in the logo) could also double as mascot for marriage equality (those arms!) and legalising abortion (who wouldn’t want a huge soda to celebrate that?). If the marketing geniuses behind this would PLEASE STAND UP SO I CAN GIVE YOU ALL MY SOCIAL, ETHICAL AND MORAL FIGHTS TO FIGHT?
Interestingly, a law passed in NYC in 2008 that required particular food outlets to post a calorie count beside each menu item. There are those who say it has little bearing on what people order. I beg to disagree. It has provided me with the information I need to decide what to eat based on my self-esteem/tightness of pants that day to judging my peers’ food choices more accurately.
Other helpful and interestingly named NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (I’m not kidding) campaigns you might be interested to know about:
– “Latch on NYC” – a campaign to encourage support for breastfeeding
– A press release titled “Health Department Issues Statement Strongly Advising That Direct Oral-Genital Suction Not be Performed During Jewish Ritual Circumcision ” (I particularly liked the use of sentence case in the title)
Other things also happened but I am going to pace myself. And spare you an excessively long post. And give you something to look forward to tomorrow. And remember, latch on!
DO YOU LOVE ME NOW, FRIENDS?
Remember what it was like to be sick, last time you were sick? Probably not, because if you did, you’d remember not to pass it on to someone else next time. You’d stay home and make sure nobody else felt the way you did. But seeing as we each get to a point where we think “Actually I don’t feel that bad, and I really need to do x” and pass all this lovely stuff around I thought I’d dedicate this post to the sickies out there who just caught something off someone.
Apparently it’s very un-NY to stay at home when you’re sick. You keep going to work (work can be hard to come by). You keep going out (there’s stuff on.) There are subway poles to lick. People to sneeze on.
Yes, I’m under the weather, just to add to the current list of maladies I am battling off a feverish episode that has left my body feeling like boiled lunch meat in week old garbage. Lovely huh? 🙂
The strange thing is, I feel like working out – because my body is so gross to me right now – even though I know it won’t really help my getting over whatever it is… I am just sick of feeling soft, lazy, immobile. (In case you think I’m crazy – I just spent the last couple of months getting over two operations.)
I also have a strong craving for carbs and dairy – two things I know will set off any number of digestive complaints… even if I do order the vegan (dairy free) gluten free mac and cheese from Brooklyn Mac… It’s tempting.. but carbs.. is it worth it? So I’m sitting here on my MacBook, and I’m switching between the menu for Brooklyn Mac, and the menu for M Noodle (dumplings… mmmm). Which do I want? Do I even want food? Do I have enough cash? Why can’t someone order for me?
All in all, I’m a HOT MESS of a woman. Cannot make up my mind what to do. It’s just as well I’m home alone or I’d probably be picking a fight or simply driving h crazy with my indecisive, maudlin, cry-baby attitude.
At any rate – I thought you might like a recap of the weekend. It was a rather lovely weekend (before my fever set in again last night) and it was largely thanks to our lovely downstairs neighbours.
While Saturday was forecast over 100 degrees (fahrenheit, obviously, for the dummies) the searing heat was no deterrent for the Giglio festival. You heard me.
Now, the Giglio festival is exactly like what you would expect if someone said the phrase “EYE-talian American” to you, put it in a bottle, shook it around and sprayed it at your Cousin Vinny. It was loud, a little dramatic, but sweet and full of meat.
The Feast of Giglio, also known as the Cooperative Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and San Paolino di Nola, is a street celebration held annually in Williamsburg to remind inhabitants to eat. Mainly fried objects. They also erect a large statue of a saint, make charitable contributions to the church in exchange for a name plate on a large wall, and watch old Ronnie recreate his halcyon days as a dance hall singer on the church steps.
For a hilarious but very detailed description of foods and drinks available check out the Short & Bald Eat New York‘s review. I am shocked, but also annoyed to discover that the Pina Coladas we all decided couldnt possibly be alcoholic ACTUALLY WERE – because it’s legal to serve alcohol on religious principle! I can’t believe I missed the opportunity to buy an overpriced, oversized colourful cup full of delicious goodness.
Oh stuff it, I’m ordering the mac & cheese. Ah. Okay. That’s better.
So the neighbours had Philly Cheese Steaks – haven’t tried one of these yet – can’t remember what the h ate (something meaty I’m sure) and I sampled a variety of novelty foods including barbequed corn (delicious), MY FIRST PRETZEL (salty, but delicious), pink lemonade (the real lemon variety) and a chicken skewer then felt as if I might throw up. Michael did buy some zeppole (like a donut but in a random shape dusted with icing sugar) and I know this will sound crazy – me loving sweet things and pastry – but I could take or leave it. Not sweet enough 🙂
Spotted: Scariest Bozo the Clown ever cajoling the crowds as he smoked on his perch nonchalantly – dunk Bozo indeed.
On our amble home (attempt to walk off calories) we spotted this gorgeous bar and decided to stop for a refreshing, iced cocktail (calorie burning attempt failure no. 245,049). Owned by a lovely French man, the bar was exceptionally trendy but still friendly. The cocktails were pleasant, company excellent, and this bar, she take a good photo. Eric doused it with his drink so we decided to continue walking home. 🙂
Spotted: Verizon building 2 blocks from our house – no windows for 4 floors – neighbours have identified it as excellent place to hide from zombies.
Sunday we had a very long sleep in and in defiance of yet another scorching forecast decided to head out to the Brooklyn Flea Markets down by the water in Williamsburg.
On our way we made a pit stop at our local donut boutique – Dunwell Doughnuts. Awesomely retro-styled goodness.
We took the subway to Bushwick Ave and walked down to the markets.
It was there that I had my first celebrity spot of my life in New York – Jonathan Cheban. Watchers of Keeping Up with the Kardashians will know Jonathan as Kim’s publicist at CommandPR. I did a little “I might wee my pants” dance but didn’t ask for a photo. I mean really, I’m not a child. Alright – bible, I just chickened out.
Whilst in W’burg we perused overpriced antiques, I walked into my first proper ‘bar’ (smells like beer! just like back home!) looking for somewhere to eat, and decided to go back to Cafe Ella for my favourite Cobb Salad with dressing on the side.
After refreshing our sweet selves we caught the subway home, I worked out, and after I made dinner for h (and fruit salad for me) started feeling rather poorly.
So that was my weekend! We also started watching HBO’s The Newsroom which is pretty amazing, if not a little unbelievable (seen the second ep? End of the ep – completely out of character. But, FINE.)
How was your weekend? If you think these questions at the end are rhetorical you’re wrong. I really do want to know 🙂
My Non-Mac and Cheese just got here. Gotta run….
It’s a tricky business moving countries.
As I wrote about previously I have been suffering from a very sore bottom due to a lack of appropriate surfaces to sit on.
Over the past week I have put together a hit-list of essential day to day items, based on the following criteria:
1. It can not be MacGyvered ie. there is no suitable substitute for the task, not even if MacGyver himself was there to help you (children – if you do not understand this reference all you must know is he had great hair, and could make a bomb out of a paperclip in every episode -pictured, above. Rad, right?).
2. You are either shy of social scenarios or even rejected from them as a result of not having access to the item
3. You are living on delicious Brooklyn Mac because you don’t have the ability or inclination to make food for yourself with what’s on hand
4. You can’t stop telling everyone about your sore bottom (also somewhat covered by point 2)
The list of essential items is growing as my patience expires but so far it includes:
– a chair
– a cutting surface and knife (if you’re not going totally zen buddhist monk then a paring knife AND a larger knife is handy)
– a hair dryer, brush, and detangling comb (is it just me who cannot live without one of these?)
– a vessel to drink out of – a mug is good for hot and cold but we were dumb and got plastic cups so no tea for me
– something to boil water in. Nope don’t have that yet either.
– a bed. But we already had that, so I didn’t put it at the top of the list. But it’s really quite important.
I’ll come back and add to this as I get more fed up/as time goes along.
Looking at this list, I think even hobos have it more together than we do right now! Hahaha.