Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes!


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“Hi Teresa, I figured you would know where I can get bushels of tomatoes.”  “Oh sorry Teresa, we can’t! We are swimming in tomatoes here!” “Hello Teresa, I have brought you a bushel of tomatoes.” So.much talk of tomatoes!! What can I say it’s tomato season in the Hudson Valley!

I always teased my kids and told them I am just not any ordinary mamma but a pasta mamma!  To this day I still can’t get this vision that I have of a pasta mamma out of my head!  I am not quite sure how old I was, but one summer in Italy I came across what I believed was a pasta mamma.  Thank goodness it wasn’t anybody I was related to.  While we were on our way to visit my aunt, we came across a neighbor.  The neighbor upon seeing my dad, ran over screaming in her Neapolitan dialect to give my dad this really exaggerated big hug. It wasn’t because she was short, robust and splattered with tomato sauce that I took notice, but it was her apron!  Her apron had two conspicuously placed well-worn patches across her chest! Mind you the apron was intact except for those two patches.  While my parents were all smiles greeting this woman, my brother and I just stood there looking on with puzzled looks on our faces. Why this well-endowed woman would want to bring more attention to herself by wearing that apron was beyond us!  Unabashed she stood so proud wearing that remarkable apron bragging about the number of jars of tomatoes she had just canned.

I keep thinking about that woman lately every time the subject of tomatoes comes up in discussions this past week. The Hudson Valley farmers as I am sure many of the farmers from where you are from are also busy harvesting tomatoes.  If you don’t have the luxury of picking your tomatoes out of your own garden, I hope you are all taking advantage of those beautiful vine ripened tomatoes from your local farmers.  I just called my co-packer who makes the 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce to order more pallets.   They work with the local farms in our area.  They told me, “Teresa, have a little patience for we are swimming in tomatoes and we are busy!”.

I remember when I was a little girl, my mom, her five sisters and Nonna, would be gathered together wearing aprons (thankfully with no patches across their chests) and their hair tied up in kerchiefs at this time of the year.  My grandfather would start the fire in the pit while all the girls were busy preparing the tomatoes.  Such a happy chore with all of them laughing and singing while sorting, cutting, straining, cooking, pouring, and jarring.  I remember hearing the joyful pop of the lids as the sauce cooled and witnessing the satisfaction on everyone’s faces.

In Italy, my father’s sisters would do the same thing. There were times that we would be in Italy during tomato harvest and the canning of the delicious tomatoes. The tomatoes were so different in Monte di Procida.  The Mediterranean sun is strong and growing tomatoes in the volcanic soil yields the sweetest juiciest tomatoes! All my aunts had their own wood fired ovens to bake bread, pizza and to seal all of those jars of tomatoes.  The ovens were located in cantinas and a whole side of the building was designated for the ovens made of blocks and concrete. The cantinas were free standing buildings away from the house.   My Zia Gilda would bake so much bread that she even had customers!  A summer treat was pizza! The pizza that came out of those wood fired ovens was incomparable to anything I have ever eaten. The crust had a touch of char covered with a few really ripe garden  tomatoes, a basil leaf, sea salt, extra virgin olive oil and fresh mozzarella. The pizza was unbelievably delicious! Mind you, my Zia would only make the pizza with the extra dough left over from the bread.    She never thought much of this pizza.  I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t make more of it! But she would often tell me that bread was her first priority.  The pizza was just a little snack. I am still searching for a comparable pizza!  The typical NY pizza we are accustomed to is not the same.

In a town not too far from my dad’s town of Monte di Procida is the ancient town of Baia where Julius Caesar had a villa there (The Castello Aragonese di Baia is open to the public now with museums). The mineral springs in Baia attracted the elite during the Roman Empire.  Most of the ancient town is under water now as a result from a volcanic eruption.  A couple of years ago my brother, sister and I met in Italy.  We decided to go to a historic pizzeria in Baia. What was unusual about this pizzeria was that it was located inside the town bread oven. Yes, you read right!  It was a bread oven so huge that there was a pizzeria built inside of it.  During the Roman Empire it was used to bake bread for the whole town.   We sat inside of this huge hollowed out oven and ate pizza and imagined Caesar eating pizza here.

Only joking about Caesar eating pizza.  The Pizza Margherita became famous in 1889, 28 years after the unification of Italy.  History has it that when Queen Margherita of Savoy, the wife of King Umberto I, visited Naples, a chef and his wife created a pizza resembling the colors of the Italian flag, tomato, mozzarella and basil! To this day it is still called Pizza Margherita!

Sadly, I don’t own a wood fired oven.  Using the garden cherry tomatoes, the pizza comes out pretty good minus the char.  I have that wood fired oven on my bucket list. I did get Jim, my husband, to make me a fire pit, though!  So I am getting closer.

I hope you enjoy the following pizza recipe as much as as my family and I do.  I used the delicious tomatoes from the garden! No worries if you don’t have a garden, just be sure to visit  farm markets to get those delicious tomatoes that are all the rage.  There is nothing like fresh vine ripened tomatoes.  Even though I am in the business of selling tomato sauce, I won’t lie to you there is nothing like a fresh tomato right off the vine.  Don’t get confused with those grocery store, hot house tomatoes, though! I also have available the jarred 825 MAIN Pizza Margherita Sauce for those months of the year when we can’t get those super delicious garden tomatoes. Even tough I don’t can my own tomatoes, Continue reading

Linguini White Clam

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      “Mornings were the best part of the day! We got to go to work with my mom!  My brother and I couldn’t eat breakfast fast enough to get ready!  Sitting by the bathroom door we patiently watched my mom put on her lipstick. I loved the sound she made after carefully sliding the lipstick around her lips, pursing her lips together.  That pop sound signaled, “Let’s go!”      

   Working was going down to “the restaurant” to help set up all the tables for lunch.  While my brother and I carefully placed the paper placemats at each place setting, my mom methodically placed the silverware in their proper spots. Watching her balance all those butter dishes I marveled at how she tossed the plates like Frisbees landing perfectly over the butter knives!  I secretly hoped that one day my mom would let me set up the tables all by myself.

   Finally after setting up all those tables we got our much anticipated reward! We followed my mom into the kitchen where she pulled out two little cans of tomato juice out of the refrigerator.  As we continued to follow her to the salad pantry where she lifted up the gleaming stainless steel top to pull out a lemon cutting it into perfect wedges we  caught a glimpse of my dad and his brothers busy at work!  My brother and I stood very quietly as we didn’t want to distract them from their work. The restaurant kitchen was sacred!  Grabbing 2 small glasses, my mom had us sit at a table adjacent to the bar. As we slid into the booth my brother and I gleefully opened up those little cans of tomato juice pouring it into little glasses and squeezing wedges of lemon into them!  I can still remember the taste of that tomato juice!  To this day no tomato juice has ever compared to what we sipped on back then in “the restaurant” sitting next to my mom after a productive morning!” My brother and I felt great satisfaction knowing that we too did our share in “the restaurant”! “

 Hello!

   Have you all been practicing making your garlic and oil sauce?  Don’t worry if you have had to practive a few times to get it perfect.  It’s all in the timing of getting the garlic a perfect gold color and then stopping the cooking by adding the parsley cooling it off.

   Now that you have mastered the basic recipe of Garlic and Oil Sauce the next sauces will be easy.   Linguini White Clam was another very popular dish at “the restaurant”.  It uses the same ingredients and the same exact method as the garlic and oil recipe with the addition of clams.  We will be omitting the salt since the clams are already salty.  In the restaurant we used cherrystone clams (big clams) instead of  the littlenecks (baby clams).  We liked using the cherrystone clams because they had the most clam juice and also because they yielded the most clams with the least amount of shucking. We don’t recommend canned clams.  To get “the restaurant” flavor always use fresh clams!

4819e21d1b8e7a245892fa8051bcbd26Shucking a clam doesn’t require strength.  It requires a little knowledge to get the clam knife through the opening of the clams cutting the muscle that keeps it shut tight.  Once the clam knife penetrates into the cavity of the clam then you turn the knife upwards to cut through both ends of the muscle that attach the clam to the shell. If you feel intimidated by shucking a clam you could always ask the fishmonger at the seafood market to shuck them for you.  Also another trick is to put the clams in the freezer for an hour which will relax the muscle that keeps the clam shut tight.  The clam knife will be easier to wedge in between the clam shell. An even easier way is to put the clams in the freezer for 3 hours. Then bring them out and let them thaw.  As they thaw they will open up for you.

 

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Linguini White Clam

(Served over 1 pound of linguini)

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Ingredients:

A dozen cherrystone clams ( shucked and save ½ cup clam juice)

½ cup of extra virgin olive oil

2 tbs chopped Italian parsley

4 medium cloves of thinly sliced thin

Pinch of red pepper flakes

 

Procedure:

           Wash and scrub the clams. Shuck the clams and save all the clam juice. Put the clam juice aside to allow all the sand and clam bits to settle.  Chop the clams well.  Pour off the clear clam juice discarding the sandy settlement. Saute the garlic in the extra virgin olive oil until golden.  Take the skillet off the burner and throw in the chopped parsley.  Pour in the ½ cup of clear clam juice, the chopped clams and a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Return to medium high heat. The clam sauce will foam as the clam juice evaporates.  Keep stirring.  Once the foam forms to the center of the pan the clams will be cooked (probably around 3 minutes).   Add a ladle (1/4 cup)  of starchy pasta water from your pasta that has been cooking  to the white clam sauce.

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     Cook the pasta according to your liking.  We  always make our pasta aldente! You may either add the sauce to the pasta or you can add the pasta to the skillet to soak up some of the sauce and then pour it all in a big pasta bowl and serve. Depending on whether you want to serve this dish as a  first course or main course, it can serve anywhere from 2-6 people.

 A variation of the White Clam Sauce is Red Clam Sauce.  It is the same  recipe except for one ingredient.  Instead of the 1/4 cup of pasta water, at the end you add a 1/4 cup of marinara sauce.  Use the 825 MAIN Marinara! I promise it will be the exact taste of “the restaurant”!

Chicken Manicotti

chicken manicotti
INGREDIENTS:
• 2 cups chicken, cooked and diced
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
• 1 cup grated Parmagiana cheese, divided
• One 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
• 1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
• 1 large clove garlic, minced
• 1 teaspoon salt, divided
• 1/4 teaspoon pepper
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 2 tablespoons flour
• 2 cups half and half
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
• One jar of 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce
• 12 manicotti, cooked and rinsed in cold water

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium size bowl combine the ricotta, 1/2 of the cup parmagiana cheese, eggs, and mozzarella. Stir in the basil, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper, and chicken until well combined. Set the filling aside.
In a saucepan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour, and the rest of the salt. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly just until the mixture starts to brown. Whisk in the half and half, stirring until becomes thick. Remove from heat and stir in the rest of the parmagiana cheese and nutmeg. Pour into large casserole dish, spreading around to completely to coat the bottom.
Place the filling into a large zip lock bag. Clip one corner and fill the manicotti from both sides and place over the white sauce. Repeat with the remaining manicotti and the filling. Pour the 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce over manicotti evenly. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella (or more if you like). Bake for about 25 minutes or until the filling is heated through.

Why I want to be one of the winners of the Martha Stewart American Made Contest?

The 2013 Martha Stewart American Made Contest

The 2013 Martha Stewart American Made Contest

For all the times that I have been told I can’t!  That’s why I want to be one of the winners of the Martha Stewart American Made Contest .  In order to get the 825 MAIN Tomato Sauces out on the shelves I had to struggle through a lot of adversity.  I was confident that the product is the best on the market.  That is a fact.  The problem isn’t with the sauce.  It’s adversity with everything else that pertains to getting the sauce on a store shelf.

The first problem started with the name.  I can’t tell you how many times I was told that it is a stupid name. ” Why cant you call it an Italian name?”,  people would often exclaim.  “I have my reasons!” I would say.  I couldn’t call it by my family restaurant name ( nothing to do with legal issues). I just didn’t want to use that name.  I felt using the family name would be  a crutch. I needed a name that I could relate to. Something that would show my roots. The name choice was really just for myself.  The name actually keeps me grounded, reminding why I started this new business.  I call it  825 MAIN, the address of the  family restaurant that we ran for over 50 years.

Then the co- packer and the label maker urged me  to just make a small batch because it was going to be my only batch.  For 2 years now I have been bottling the sauce every 2 months.  And I have used well over 10,000 labels.

A distributor told me I  couldn’t get into Whole Foods because of the logo.  I am  in Whole Foods.

A grocery manager made me give him 8 cases for free and told me if I could sell those 8 cases then I could go in the store.  It took 2 demos and he ordered 8 more cases.

I come across lots of “sauce snobs” when I do demos.   They tell me that a jarred sauce can never be any good.    I can’t tell you how many times I  have converted a “sauce snob”!

I am a nominee in the Martha Stewart American Made Contest because I can!

Please help put out the vote. Click on my picture and click 6 votes!

PLEASE VOTE EVERYDAY!

PLEASE VOTE EVERYDAY!

Hudson Valley Basil

Basil growing at Frank L Sorebello Farm in Highland, NY

Basil growing at Frank L Sorebello Farm in Highland, NY

      Making tomato sauce is easy enough but finding the perfect ingredients is what makes it special.  This week my husband and I went searching for basil to put in our next 825 MAIN tomato Sauce batch.  We want to support Hudson Valley farms.  Our search this past week was for basil.  Our first stop was to Frank Sorbello’s Farm in Highland, NY.  We found acres and acres of crops and acres and acres of greenhouses.  Frank Sorbello showed us around.  I was surprised to find that Frank doesn’t grow his basil in the greenhouses.  He said  basil doesn’t do well in greenhouses.  It needs full sun and does not like the cold.  So it is a very short season.  He didn’t have a good crop this year with all the heavy rain.  He didn’t have any basil to harvest for us.  Frank lost 2 crops from the heavy rains in June and the heavy rain in July.  The basil leaves had turned yellow and that is a big turn off to the produce buyers.  He said as long as the weather keeps up he will have basil to harvest in September.  Frank was proud to tell us that he grows his basil in black soil brought in from a river bank. The growing season for basil in the Hudson Valley is June to September.  Gosh!  Who knew!  I grow basil in my garden and I did notice the yellow leaves but I still continue to use it. I didn’t realize that it has to be  perfect to sell at stores.  Frank had lots of other crops.  But I had to wonder how much this farmer economically suffred when  2 crops of acres of basil were lost this summer due to the weather.  All that work and money lost to the weather!  Basil is so temperamental!

continental organics     Our next stop was to Continental Organics.  Continental Organics is a sustainable agriculture company located on a former dairy farm in the Hudson Valley town of New Windsor, New York. They produce natural and organic food in a closed-loop micro environment comprised of indoor high tech RAS aquaponics equipment and restored traditional organic fields. They grow the basil using hydroponic methods.  I had no idea what Jim and I were in for.  Whenever I think of hydroponic all I think of is bland perfectly sized tomatoes.  We were pleasantly surprised. The tomato  plants were thriving .  The basil was beautiful.  As I looked on in the climate controlled greenhouses with the beautiful greens I thought of Frank Sorbello.  This poor farmer worked so hard and lost 2 crops to his short lived season for basil.  Continental Organics greenhouses were thriving.  They used all the space including the rooftop of their building.  It was amazing!

Contimental Organics hydropone basil ready to be harvested

Contimental Organics hydropone basil ready to be harvested

     I have to make a decision.  I do want to support Frank and his traditional farming methods.  There is a certain feel to traditional farming  of our land as I remembered Frank’s well weathered face.  I want to support the traditional farmer.  But then there is Keith, a disabled veteran,  who wants to sustain the economic viability of farm operations and enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.  Continental Organics is a disabled veteran company, which warms my heart as well. I think I would like to use both, Frank in the short months of summer and Keith the rest of the year.