As I was driving today I passed the St. Jacobs Market. Very slowly. With my window rolled down I could pick up everything that’s great about the Farmer’s Market without stopping. I could smell the seasonal goods from a couple hundred metres away. Fresh herbs and produce, baked goods and flowers. You could see the hustle and bustle of the vendors. The customers almost standing still. Nobody wants to rush the experience.
I love to grab whatever I can from the market. When I’m there I’ll pick up basil, thyme, rosemary, sage and any other herb that’s in season and screaming with aroma. I’ll grab locally grown potatoes, carrots, leeks, onions and vegetables that talk to me. The same goes for fruit, sweet and juicy fruit. I will smell, touch and taste anything I can to make sure it’s the finest, freshest available. Any and all things I can include with a recipe. From the market to the table. It’s that easy.
I only use fresh ingredients whenever possible and I prefer supporting local butchers, farmers and vendors. There is one exception to that rule. Canned Whole Tomatoes. When it comes to making sauces, nothing beats the flavour provided from canned tomatoes. Why? Manufacturers can the best fruit and vegetables whole, then chop, crush or puree the rest. They are picked at their peak and the ripest, most attractively-coloured tomatoes are used as whole. They are incredibly superior to out-of-season supermarket tomatoes that are picked before fully ripe and bred to survive the long haul to market with minimal damage.
I make my tomato sauce from the whole canned variety and experiment to create the best flavour combinations. Considering how little actual time it takes to make fresh tomato sauce, I never buy store bought sauces anymore. I stock up on canned tomatoes! You should too, and after I show you how easy it is to make it yourself you may never go back.
I’m including the following recipes tonight.
Chicken Parmigiana & Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce:
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- small handful fresh basil
- 1 can whole tomatoes-drained, hand-crushed
- 1/4 c. of good red wine (optional)
- kosher salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 2 c. bread crumbs
- mozzarella cheese, grated
- parmigiano reggiano
- 1/2 lb. spaghetti-cooked al dente
1. Place a saute pan over medium heat and add a splash of olive oil. When the oil gets hot add onions, garlic and bay leaves. Cook and stir, around 5 minutes and until onions are soft and fragrant. Add the wine and cook on med-high heat, scraping the brown bits off the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Return to medium heat and add the torn basil. Carefully add the tomatoes and stir and cook until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Season with salt & pepper and sugar, lower heat and cover. Continue simmering.
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
3. Put the chicken breasts on a sheet of plastic wrap and cover. Pound chicken with a mallet or the back of a saute pan until about 3/8″ thick. Put flour in a shallow dish and season with salt & pepper and mix it up with your finger. In a wide bowl, combine eggs and 1 tsp. of water and beat vigorously until frothy. Put the bread crumbs on a shallow plate.
4. Heat a splash of oil over med-high heat in a oven-proof saute pan. Dredge both sides of the chicken in the flour and then dip in the egg wash, coating completely. Let the excess wash drip off and then dredge in the bread crumbs. When the oil is hot on the pan, add the chicken and fry for 4 minutes each side, until golden brown.
5. Spoon some of the tomato sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with mozzarella and fresh parmigiano. Bake for 15 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly.
6. Serve with spaghetti or pasta of your choice.
7. Finish with fresh torn basil and fresh parmigiano.