Homemade BBQ Sauce? Yes Please.

Homemade Barbecue SauceA lot of vegetarians will tell you that what they miss more than anything on this now meatless earth is *bacon*. And they’ll say it with this faraway look in their eyes like strips of bacon wear little haloes and float in the sky. Ahh, but not this one. There are three veggie weaknesses for me:

  1. The Jewish girl in me longs for her people’s food of choice: bagels with schmear and lox.  Oy.
  2. Sushi… OH, how I long for fresh tuna.
  3. And the big summer kahuna — barbecue.

Luckily, the last is something we can work with. It’s not that I miss the slabs of meat or the taste of hamburger and hotdogs. Those urges are long gone. But the smell of smoke wafting through the air and the crowd that gathers around a piping hot grill and the community aspects to a barbecue strikes a deep-down cord.

There are a million alternatives that you can put on the grill, things I’ve blogged about many a time before. But grilling and barbecue somehow mean something different, and it’s only occurred recently to me that that might be due to… mmmm…. barbecue sauce.

Barbecue sauce comes in a godzillion (yes, that is the technical term) varieties and line the supermarket’s aisles with options. But I have come to find that the best way to eat BBQ sauce is to make it yourself. It’s shockingly simple and cheaper than buying it from the store. Add in the bonus of reducing the sugar and sodium levels, leaving out high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and other unpleasantries – not to mention getting to add the flavors that you like in particular – it ends up hard to argue with.

The staples of barbecue sauce are crazy easy:

  • tomato paste
  • mustard
  • garlic
  • onion powder
  • cider vinegar
  • some spices, a little sea salt
  • and liquid smoke  (the clincher).

The rest is fair game.

  • For sweetness, pick your sweet of choice: local honey, real maple sauce (please, come on guys), molasses, brown sugar. All good and all different.
  • Spices! Chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, you could try cinnamon… go nuts! (Ooh, nuts would be interesting.)Tomato Paste - pic borrowed from http://localfoods.about.com/od/condiments/ss/tomatopaste.htm
  • For liquids try a boozey variety: like whisky, or I like adding a really dark beer, or if you’re thinking a tangier concoction, how about tequila? With lime!
  • I used to use Worcestershire sauce until I realized it has fishies in it and then it was sayonara to the Woost. But definitely try some hot sauce or hot peppers.
  • Maybe soy if you’re feeling like a hint of the East.
  • You can also try making your own tomato paste, should the tomato harvest overwhelm you. This should give a bit of a fresher flavor, and there’s a good how-to here.
  • Add a few drops of liquid smoke at the end. If you just put your nose in it, you’ll get why it seals the deal.

Simply put all this in a pot and stir it around until it smells and/or tastes like you imagine BBQ sauce to. Or better, like you wish it did. Throw it in a jar and add your personalized label. Then slather it on tofu, seitan, tempeh, vegetables. Anything.

I can’t promise you won’t miss meat, but I can promise you won’t be thinking about bacon.

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Ten Things To Do With Tomatoes

Tomato PaloozaAs  you might have seen in our post Greener Thumbs Prevail, we have tomatoes all a-bloom in our window garden. But on top of those beautiful babies, we also got a truck-load of tomatoes from our CSA share this week. It seemed only fitting that we should write about the abounding number of things you can do with tomatoes, to which there is no end (except in this case, in which the end is ten).

  1. Tomato SauceThe classic option is, of course, tomato sauce. Any cook worth their salt knows how to make a sauce: tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil, oregano, salt (some people say sugar – I disagree). The fresher the tomatoes, the better the sauce. Crazy easy: crazy delicious.
  2. Swirled Tomatoes with BalsamicSalsaRatatouilleBruschetta. Toast bread with olive oil and garlic, and top with chopped tomatoes and basil.
  3. Or contrarily, just lay out some tomatoes in a swirly pattern, topple them with basil, drizzle with balsamic and oil, salt and pepper generously. It’s a crowd pleaser.
  4. Stuffed TomatoesSalsa! In addition to tomatoes, we’ve gotten some hot peppers in our CSA share as well. Chop tomatoes, onions, garlic, hot peppers, and fruit of choice. We used pineapple (which obviously came locally in our Northeastern share… oops). And whamo. Eat with burritos, fajitas, on greens, or with a corn chip or two.
  5. Stuffed ZucchiniTry making tomato paste. (Which can be used in BBQ sauce, soon to be blogged about.)
  6. Ratatouille is another way to use a share bounty. Put eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and garlic in a roasting pan. Head-spinning!
  7. Stuffed tomatoes, especially on the grill, are so tasty. Crunch up some stale bread and a hard cheese, like a Pecorino, and cook them in the oven until they melt. Then crisp ’em up in the broiler, for gooeyness’ sake. Try the same thing with zukes and use tomatoes as the stuffing with breadcrumbs and cheese, and you’ll have stuffed zucchini.
  8. Roasted TomatoesWe stumbled on this phenomenal recipe from The Times for tomato risotto that was incredibly luxurious and delicious. We scratched the sugar and vegan-consciously let people add their own parm. It was rich and superb.
  9. Roasted tomatoes are beautiful and mouthwatering. Lay them out on a pan with garlic, salt, basil, oregano, rosemary and cook them until the tips blacken.
  10. And canning! As you may have heard, winter tomatoes are, well er, not tomatoes. So this year we took our excess and canned them so we can have ripe tomatoes when the harvest season ends. It was labor intensive and messy, but come January will have been damn worth it when we make any of the treats seen above.IMG_6461