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October 4, 2005

Eat Your Heart Out - October 4, 2005

The Basics

I am often surprised when people tell me that they cannot cook. Personally, I believe that if you can read, you can cook, since most people fall into trouble when they try to invent recipes. If you follow a recipe from a cookbook, it has undoubtedly been tested by the writer as well as recipe testers and will usually be tasty. So with this weekly column, I'll provide you with recipes that are integral to my own cooking experiences and share new trends in the food world. For this inaugural column, I thought it would be best to give recipes for two basics that the average college student buys canned: chicken stock and tomato sauce. It may seem like a hassle at first, since they yield more volume than what would be consumed by one person, but what is so wonderful about these two recipes is that once they are cooked and cooled, you can transfer them to freezer baggies or containers in single-sized portions and use only when needed. Not only does it impress people when they hear that you make your own stock and pasta sauce, but the two recipes below are far healthier than the canned versions found at the supermarket, which are often laden with preservatives and sodium. You'll be eating healthier and tastier; what more could you ask for?

Basic Chicken Stock

• 1 quart raw chicken bones (you can also include necks, backs, gizzards, and other scraps of meat)

• 1 medium yellow onion, chopped

• 1 celery stalk, chopped

• 1 carrot, chopped

• 1 bay leaf

• 6 sprigs parsley

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 5 black peppercorns

• 1 quart water

In a heavy saucepan, brown the chicken bones and other entrails over medium-high heat. When colored, add the vegetables and stir for a minute. Then cover with water and add all of the seasonings. Bring to a light boil and simmer, covered, for at least two hours. Then strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve and check the seasonings. If needed, add more salt and/or freshly ground pepper to taste.

Makes about 1 quart.

Basic Tomato Sauce

• 1/4 cup olive oil

• 1/2 medium yellow onion, minced

• 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

• 1 sprig thyme

• 1 28 oz can whole plum tomatoes and their juice

• 1/2 teaspoon sugar

• salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for a minute. Roughly chop the tomatoes and add to the pan along with the tomato juice from the can, thyme, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Check again for seasonings and serve with the pasta of your choice.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.