There are few things I enjoy or appreciate more than someone cooking for me. Given how much I love to cook, this doesn’t happen often. And to be honest, given how particular I can be, particular being a code word for control freak, it took a while for me to let go and enjoy someone taking the cooking reins. Years ago I almost destroyed a friendship when said friend roasted a chicken for me in my own kitchen. I couldn’t resist giving notes in the guise of questions that started with ‘Are you sure you want to…?” The friendship thankfully survived and I learned to shut up. Age and a debatable amount of maturity have further enabled me to sit back and enjoy a friend preparing a meal, even in my own kitchen.
Martinis certainly help.
One such friend is one of my best friends, David Hendren. He is a terrific artist. (Click here to check out a little of his art.) He is also an excellent cook. In exchange for using a shed in my backyard as his studio, a plus as it means he is often around, he cooks a meal every month or so for whomever happens to be around that evening. These are lovely nights for me. I can sit back, relax, focus on good conversation and enjoy what is always an amazing meal.
David is a better tinkerer than I in the kitchen. Some of the best meals he has prepared were dishes he threw together without a recipe, replicating something he enjoyed at a restaurant or trying an idea based on what was fresh at the market that afternoon. Two of his best dishes I ask for him to repeat are tomato-based. One is a spicy salsa with a hell of a beautiful kick. The second is a tomato sauce/marinara that is incredibly versatile. Both are outstanding. Given it is summer and vine ripe tomatoes are plentiful, I asked him to donate these two recipes to the blog. (One actually uses canned tomatoes but we’re not sticklers here at On Food And Film.)
The salsa is similar to a famous habanero and cream salsa from the restaurant Malo in Los Angeles. I love the Malo salsa but David’s is even better. It takes a few steps but is well worth the effort. The tomato sauce/marinara is a wonderful interpretation. We’ve never actually eaten it tossed with pasta, though I am sure that would be perfect. David serves it over polenta, which is terrific, or with pork chops, which is even better. The leftover red sauce I usually eat with bread, dipping into the pot or just solo with a spoon.
Both the salsa and the marinara are excellent recipes. Have fun. Cook for a friend or get one to cook for you! And remember, comments are welcomed, as well as questions for our guest chef!
David Hendren’s Habanero Cream Salsa
two 16oz cans of fire roasted tomatoes
4-5 cloves of garlic, skin on
2 Serrano peppers
2 habanero peppers (i find serranos have a quick bite, habaneros a slow torturous burn. i like both)
6-8 dried chipolte peppers (these are found in the mexican/asian section. they come in clear plastic bags and are found throughout the section, usually connected to the vertical metal bars that support the shelves)
2 teaspoons of sugar
4oz heavy cream
salt to taste
1. tear stems off of chipolte peppers and put in a bowl of hot tap water. dont boil, just as hot as comes out of tap. push them down in the water to get all the air bubbles out of the inside and let soak for 10-12 mins. Drain.
2. cut stems off of habanero and serrano peppers and cut down middle. scrape out most of the seeds. place the peppers, as well as the garlic cloves, in a pot or pan over hot heat, no oil. stir around every 30 – 45 secs till the garlic gets tiny burned spots and the peppers start to blister (side note: this is when it gets all pepper spray like in the house. might want to cover pot in between stirs and turn on the fan. plan accordingly!) . turn heat off and let cool.
3. in blender, pour both cans of fire roasted tomatoes and course blend. add the hydrated chipolte peppers, habanero and serrano peppers, and the garlic, now peeled. blend till fairly smooth. the chipoltes will take some time.
4. pour contents of blender into large pot and turn on high heat. stir constantly till light boil, then turn heat to low. start a timer for 30 mins. stir fairly constantly. you will notice a lot of water coming to the surface.
5. add sugar and salt. not so sure about the amounts for either, but you can probably figure it out. the sugar tempers the heat a bit and counters the bitterness of the dried peppers, so add or subtract as you taste fit. same with salt. keep in mind that most of the things you have with the salsa will also have salt….just saying.
6. after 30 mins of simmering, turn heat off and let cool for 15 more mins, stirring fairly often to speed the cooling process.
7. when salsa is cooled, add cream. you dont want to add cream while it is hot otherwise it will cook. gross.
David Hendren’s Marinara
6-8 awesome heirloom tomatoes, coarsely chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 tlbs olive oil
1 cup of dry red wine
8 basil leaves, coarsely chopped
salt to taste
1. coarsely chop the tomatoes. i guess any kind would do in a pinch, but i really think these are what make the dish. everything else plays support to the awesome goodness of the heirlooms.
2. in a pot, heat up oil on medium high heat, add garlic and stir constantly till golden. add wine. this should hiss and splatter a bit so watch out.
3. turn heat down to medium and add tomatoes. cook till they start to break down, about ten minutes, and add oregano.
4. turn heat down again to low and let simmer for 30-40 mins, adding sugar and salt to taste. sauce should be fairly reduced after 40 mins
5. serve over your favorite pasta or polenta and add basil.