Category Archives: Vegetarian

Tomato-Basil Sauce from Scratch

Tomato-Basil Sauce

The weather here in Michigan was unusually cool for much of the early part of the summer, so our tomatoes have been slow to ripen, but we’re finally getting lots of ripe tomatoes. I was able to collect enough tomatoes from our Roma plants to make a batch of sauce from scratch. It turned out to be just enough sauce for Kristina and I, so double or triple this recipe up as necessary.

A lot of people who otherwise enjoy cooking Italian food might think making tomato sauce from whole tomatoes might be too difficult or daunting. It takes a little time, and it’s a little messy, but it’s pretty easy. I made this today and the time from picking the tomatoes and basil to serving was less than two hours– and that was while making a batch of pesto on the side. And the result of sauce made from fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes and basil directly out of the garden is transcendentally delicious. I couldn’t believe how good this was the first time I made it.

As mentioned, the tomatoes typically used for making sauce are Roma, or Plum tomatoes. If you want to try making this sauce and don’t have a garden with Roma tomatoes and basil plants, find a local farmer’s market. I wouldn’t bother using grocery store tomatoes for this sauce– they’ve usually been bred for hardiness when shipping, not flavor, and they’re harvested and shipped when not fully ripe so they can be transported with less damage.


  • About 28 medium-sized Roma tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 Cups loosely packed basil leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)


Special Utensils:

  • Blender
  • Cheesecloth


Serves 2

Choose a batch of nice, ripe Roma tomatoes:

Blanching tomaotesHeat a pot of water and Rinse your Roma tomatoes. When the water is boiling, add the tomatoes a few at a time, leaving each batch in for a minute of so at a time to loosen the skin of the tomatoes which makes them easy to remove. Don’t throw them all in at once like I did in the pic here– it’ll take a while for the water to get boiling again and you don’t want to cook the tomatoes too much, just enough so the skin pulls right off. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Once the tomatoes are out, rinse them in cold water to stop the cooking process and cool them off enough to handle.

Now here’s what to do to each tomato:

Cut off the stem end and remove the skin.


Cut in quarters and scoop out the seeds and jelly, leaving the “meaty” part of the tomato.

Dice it up. Now just repeat a few dozen times.

cheeseclothNow we take the diced tomato pieces and put them in a ayer of cheesecloth folded double. wrap up the cheescloth around the diced tomatoes and tie the top of the cloth around a wooden spoon. Twist the spoon to tighten the cheesecloth and squeeze the excess water out of the tomatoes. This step is important– if you skip it your sauce will be watery.

When you’ve squeezed out all the water you can, put some or all the diced tomato pieces in a blender and puree. I like my sauce a little chunky, so I reserve a half to a third to stay diced and process the rest.

Now we’re ready for cooking. Heat up a few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a pan and sautee the diced garlic. When the garlic is softened up, our in the tomato sauce. Add the salt and pepper to taste and simmer for about ten or fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally.

sauce-basil2While the sauce is cooking, cut up the basil leaves. A simple way to do this is to stack batches of basil leaves from large to small and roll them up, cutting the rolled up leaves into strips. Add the basil and cook for 5 more minutes.

The sauce is complete! Add to your favorite pasta and serve with a little grated Parmesan cheese if you like. Enjoy!


Grilled Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

I felt like grilling something sort of Mexican style last weekend. I had a general idea of marinating and grilling flank steak with some peppers and onions and making fajitas. So I stopped at the grocery store to get a few ingredients– the steak, some corn tortillas… and I noticed some nice-looking poblano peppers that intrigued me. Decided to pick up a few poblanos, not sure what I’d do with them. We already had plenty of red and green peppers to grill for the fajitas, so I decided to stuff the poblanos. Never tried stuffing them before, but I’d heard about stuffed poblano peppers and it sounded good in theory. Well, I put together some stuffing ingredients from what I had around, and the stuffed poblanos turned out fantastic on the grill! Delicious and filling. So good in fact, that we started eating them first and almost forgot about the flank steak, although that turned out great too. Maybe I’ll do a post about the flank steak next week. We decided the stuffed poblanos and the steak would be enough for dinner and figured we’d make fajitas another day.

It’s easy to make this a vegetarian meal if you use water instead of chicken stock to cook the rice and leave out the bacon. Leave out the cheese, and it’s vegan.


  • 4 Poblano Peppers
  • 1 cup long-grain rice, like Basmati
  • 2 Cups Low-Sodium Chicken Stock or Water
  • 6 Strips Cooked, Diced Bacon
  • 1 Small Diced Red Onion
  • 1 Can Black Beans
  • 1/2 Cup of your Favorite Salsa
  • 1/2 Cup of Shredded Cheese– Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, or any combo thereof
  • 1 Tsp. Granulated Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. Chipotle Chili Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. Oregano
  • 1/2 Tsp. Black Pepper


Special Utensils:

  • Just a Grill


Serves 4

Heat the 2 cups of low-sodium chicken stock or water to boiling, then add the rice, turn heat down to low, and cover. When the rice is ready in about 20 minutes, mix with the other stuffing ingredients. The same tip I gave for the fried rice recipe applies here– use just a little bit less than 2 cups of liquid to the 1 cup of rice, and it’s also a good idea to undercook the rice just a little. There’s more liquid to be added with the salsa and beans and more cooking to be done on the grill.

Cut the tops off the poblano peppers and carefully cut the two ribs on each side of the seed pod area that holds it to the inside of the pepper, so the seeds can be removed. Fill the empty pepper with the stuffing mix and put the top of the pepper back on, holding it on with two toothpicks.

The same grilling instructions from the Perfectly Grilled Filet Mignon post apply here: Get enough charcoal ready for one side of the grill, and soak a handful of your favorite type of wood chips. When the coals are ready, add the wood chips and roast the peppers on the hot side of the grill to get a nice char (but be careful not to burn them), turning at least once to a side. Then move the peppers to the cooler side of the grill to finish cooking. The peppers will take about 15 minutes total to cook, so if you’re grilling them with a thin steak like a flank steak, you’ll want to start the peppers first. Enjoy!

Diced Potatoes on the Grill


Now that warm-weather grilling season is here in Michigan, I thought I’d focus a little more on BBQ/grilling side dishes. Here’s one my dad used to make when he grilled in the backyard. I’ve added to it but the principal of cooking the diced potatoes in foil is the same as when he did it back when I was a kid. It’s a great-tasting side that’ll go with anything you’re grilling or barbequing. Simple, and a nice change of pace over plain old whole potatoes wrapped in foil and grilled.


  • 5 medium-sized potatoes, skin-on, washed and scrubbed
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • Sweet red, orange or yellow peppers (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 2-3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 1-2 tablespoons granulated garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt


Special Utensils:

  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil


Serves 2-4

Pull out a long piece of foil from the roll. I usually pull out a 3-foot long piece and fold it in half for extra strength. Dice up the potatoes into around one-inch squares. I leave the skins on, but you could peel the potatoes first if you like. Dice up the onion and peppers (if you’re using peppers) and add it all to the foil sheet. Then drizzle the olive oil and apple cider vinegar over and add the salt, pepper, garlic powder and thyme. Grab both ends of the foil sheet and kind of roll the potato mixture back and forth to help distribute the spices. oil. etc. This is what it should look like at this point:

potatoesBeforeNow take the top and bottom of the foil sheet and wrap it together carefully, rolling the top of the seam down to make a good semi-airtight seal. Do the same with the sides. Get the charcoal going or turn the gas burners up on one side. Now here’s the trick to making the potatoes really good– lay the foil package right on top of the heating-up coals, or put them where the gas flame is the hottest. Turn over at regular intervals. The idea is to brown the potatoes just enough to carmelize them and increase the flavors, to get that hash brown flavor– not enough heat and all you’ll get are steamed potatoes.

Get the potatoes sizzling away nicely on the high heat first, and when you start to grill you can back off on the heat to the potatoes. By the time your BBQ is ready you should be able to open a perfectly cooked pouch of potatoes. Enjoy!

Pistachio Pesto

Pistachio Pesto

Pistachio Pesto

Wow, it’s been almost two months since I’ve posted. It’s been a busy summer! But it’s the great comments to this blog that made me realize I need to get back to it. Like Mr. Cialis, who had some nice things to say, as well as offering a helpful link to great deals on cheap generic prescription drugs that I’m sure would be hard to find anywhere else on the internet. And who could forget iqquagnsufpk, who memorably said and I quote,  “TSw4mS xwpxpjepzcux”. Not quite sure what he or she was getting at, but I’m sure it was well-intentioned and profound. Makes me almost want to turn commenting back on.

Anyway, it’s late July, and if you’re growing tomatoes and basil in the midwest like me, that means big beautiful basil bushes but probably just a couple ripe tomatoes so far. Especially with the late start we got this spring, with all the cold and the rain. So it’s a perfect time to make pesto. And with the hot humid 90+ weather we’ve had for like the entire month of July, who wants to cook. The only thing you need to heat up for this is water to boil the pasta.

Pesto is really good– for us it’s a real taste of summer. It works great by itself as a vegetarian meal, or you can thaw some pre-cooked cocktail-style shrimp and throw it in. Or serve it as a side dish with some barbecued chicken.

Usually you use pine nuts in pesto, but I had a big bag of shelled pistachios hanging around, and I knew from past experience pistachios work great in pesto. But traditional pine nuts are good too.


  • 2 Cups basil leaves
  • 1/4-1/2 Cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 tomatoes
  • 2-3 Tbs. Olive oil
  • 1 Tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 Cup pistachios (or pine nuts)
  • Coarse-ground pepper to taste

Special utensils:

  • Food processor

Serves 2-4

Wash basil leaves and separate the leaves that are in good condition from the stems and the damaged leaves. Chop the garlic coarsely and add all ingredients except tomato to the food processor. Set processor to chop, and chop the pesto ingredients in short pulses, stopping frequently to take a spatula to fold the unchopped stuff along the outside toward the bottom to get everything evenly chopped. Don’t overprocess it– Pesto should be coarsely chopped.

Mix the pesto into the boiled pasta of your choice. I usually use thin spaghetti or angel hair pasta. Chop up tomato and add it to the mix. Enjoy.