There are some days when I come home from work, absolutely exhausted from the lab politics of “my grant is bigger than yours,” and “what do you mean you don’t have x when clearly you only have y?”, I don’t want to go from stepping off the bus, straight into the kitchen. While it takes me on average of an hour to cook from pan to plate, most of America doesn’t have this luxury. The majority of my friends are now are married, with children who require constant supervision no less, and they cannot just leave them to have some “alone time” in the kitchen.
I’ve also noticed that the yoga studio is more popular than ever with college students. No longer are they flocking to the gym to the once over-popular spin class, but are now rolling out their mat next to me, as they too probably love the “everyone can do yoga” mantra, that got me there in the first place. These same students I know, also don’t have the time after a full day of classes to spend an hour cooking dinner. Exhausted, and just wanting to refuel their tired body and minds, they often turn to take-out. I did.
This afternoon I came home, mind absolutely full from what our PI (head of the lab) told us in our weekly meeting, and just wanted some good ol’ comfort food. Warm, hearty, and to make me feel that I really was home, bringing my mind back to the “family” that I love and out of the lab.
Plans of making a soup were out, as that would take an hour to make. But I have been toying with the idea of making a 30 minute meal (please don’t sue me Rachael Ray for using your probably trademarked phrase) for a while now and figured the best place to start was a marinara sauce.
It all starts with a good base. The elements of sweet, almost jammy, caramelized onions, garlic, and a bit of heat from red pepper flake, compliment the loads of roughly chopped baby bella mushrooms that are thrown in. There’s just something magical about onions, mushrooms and garlic. When they hit a hot pan, the rich, earthy and sweet aromas fill our entire apartment, and often cause Roo to get off the couch and into the kitchen to ask, “what are we having?”
But there is a secret. Butter (like Earth Balance).
One to two tablespoons of it adds a creaminess that brings everything all together. You’re not going to need cheese, and you may not even need real pasta (we love roasted spaghetti squash with this). It’s all about the sauce. And I hope you’ll feel that way too.
Serves Four People, With Leftovers
Two to three tablespoons of olive oil
Two to three medium onions, diced (it seems like a lot, but it really makes the sauce)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of red pepper flake (this gives substantial heat, if you just want a little bit, start with a quarter, and go up from there)
1 box (about 12 oz) of baby bella mushrooms, roughly chopped, stems removed (I find their stems super woody, so I remove them)
1 large green pepper, diced
One jar of good marinara sauce (I use Newman’s Organic basil marinara sauce)
One to two tablespoons of butter (like Earth Balance)
Salt and pepper to taste
A very large saute pan (with tall sides) or a pot
A sharp knife
Add the olive oil to your large saute pan. Place on a burner over medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the diced onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions become lightly browned. Add the garlic and the red pepper flake. Cook, stirring frequently, keeping an eye on the pan so that the garlic and red pepper flake do not burn. When the onions become browned (versus lightly), add the mushrooms (this is around the ten minute marker from start). It’s going to look like a lot of mushrooms, and you may question my sanity as to how many I made you put in there, but like the onions, they’ll cook down. Add about a pinch of salt. Stir the ingredients till evenly distributed in the pan. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until they have cooked down and are tender (about seven minutes). At this point it’ll be around 18 minutes into cooking. Add the green peppers. Stir till combined, getting all that hot oil/onion/mushroom flavor over the peppers. Cook for about a minute. Add the sauce, and you’ll probably be 20 minutes in. Stir till combined. Add the butter (like Earth balance). Stir till combined. Reduce the heat to very very low, so that the sauce is simmering (or burping, in my case, as I had a very veg-dense sauce). Cook for about eight minutes. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Simmer for another two minutes. Taste, and you should be done.
Time: 30 minutes, you can do it!