Saturday, May 04, 2013

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Strawberry, Butter Peas, Mixed Greens (No Added Fat)

Yesterday was the first day for pick-your-own strawberries at Whitted-Bowers Farm about 50 minutes away from us. My wife is more careful with buying organic than I am, but we both insist on only organic berries, and this lovely farm is not only organic, but also biodynamic. When we first discovered the farm two years ago, we came back with something like 75 pounds of strawberries in three visits! Yesterday it was just my daughter and me, and we picked about 12 1/2 pounds. Several varieties were almost ready, but our favorite, 'Early Glow' was the only one really ready, and all that we picked.

We froze about half of what we picked and are dehydrating most of the rest (strawberry chips, just dehydrated strawberry slices, last and have a nice and concentrated flavor). I wanted to use some in a main course, and was thinking of making some dressing like I did after the first visit to this farm (and should have tonight, but ran out of time), but also did a little bit of research on the web and found an interesting sounding and easy recipe that used strawberries cooked down with tomato puree to make a pasta sauce - I don't think I'd ever have thought of that! Hats off to Chefs Ron Suhanosky and Colleen Marnell-Suhanosky (formerly) of New York City's Lexington Ave.'s Sfoglia restaurant who came up with this recipe for Spaghetti With Strawberries.

Their premise is that, just as some pastry chefs are adding savory ingredients, why not add sweet to main courses? I think they're on to something, and used their approach, with some changes. Their sauce turned out surprisingly good; we all loved it and the dinner in general, and I will continue to use this as an inspiration for additional creations!

Here is what I did. It is an easy recipe, in spite of how I have described it!
  1. I took about six-ten ripe medium strawberries (the original recipe calls for 1/2 pound), washed and dehulled them, and cut them in half.
  2. I put the berries in a stainless steel sauce pan and, with no added oil or anything else, gently heated on medium heat, stirring (my daughter actually helped and did the stirring!). After just a minute or so, the strawberry began releasing juice; I added a tablespoonful or so of ume plum vinegar. Over the course of about 4 or 5 minutes, the strawberry largely liquified and cooked down to almost half the original volume. (I didn't think that the vinegar was necessary and next time I make such a sauce, I'll skip it).
  3. The original recipe calls for then adding a cup of tomato puree; instead, I used almost 2 cups of an organic marinara sauce. I also added another batch of six-ten ripe strawberries, but did not add 4 ounces of reserved pasta cooking water (I preferred more tomato and a thicker sauce, and am glad I did), as the recipe called for.
  4. I thought it would be good to also add some vegetables at this point, and added about a quarter small bell pepper, cut into approximately 3/8" cubes, as well as about an eighth of a small yellow onion, cut into 1/4" cubes. Next time, I may also add some kale leaves, perhaps cut into chiffonades, as well as quartered basil leaves. Some cubed carrot would also be good!
  5. My daughter continued to stir for another 5 minutes or so till the strawberry was again much softened and almost liquified; the recipe says that one should reduce the sauce in half again, and I think it did, if just the strawberry was considered.
  6. The recipe concludes with seasoning the sauce to taste. What I did was add a little bit of salt to taste (1/2 teaspoonful I believe), a few shakes of dried oregano, and maybe ten fresh lemon sage leaves. I wanted to also add nutritional yeast, but decided to keep the sauce more pure strawberry-tomato to appreciate what Chefs Suhanosky and Marnell-Suhanosky intended, and next time build more of my own vision into the sauce.
In parallel, I had prepared whole wheat spaghetti, onto which I served the sauce. I had wanted to mix some hot chili powder into the cooking sauce, but instead tried some at the table atop the sauce (nowadays I rarely strongly season, as my daughter won't eat something that is too spicy). Here my intuition was off; surprisingly, at least to my taste, this tomato sauce does not do well with heat.

The sauce really was good and was not something that I would have predicted. I hope soon to make pizza with a strawberry sauce as a base! I will experiment with other ways of cooking strawberries into tomato sauces.

A basic mixed green salad and butter peas (purchased frozen and similar to lima beans and black-eyed peas) completed the dinner. I had hoped to make a version of a simple strawberry cobbler with reduced fat and sugar, as well, but a simple strawberry-Valencia orange juice to accompany the meal sufficed.

Except for a little bit of olive oil (1g of fat per serving of sauce, and I think that was 1/6 of the sauce; I used almost 1/3, so that totals 2g of fat for all three of us, or about 2/3 g fat per serving) that was in the tomato sauce that I used, it was another no-added-fat dinner. Because it's such a small amount and because any tomato sauce can be used, I am still labeling the dish as "no added fat".


At Sun May 05, 09:00:00 AM EDT, Blogger Bono said...

Sounds yummy. What was the sweetness quotient?

At Sun May 05, 01:51:00 PM EDT, Blogger Dilip said...

Hi Bono - thanks for your comment. It was really good! It was a light, nuanced sweetness, suitably subtle. Of course, you could add more or less strawberries to control the sweetness.


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