“The most important ingredient in cooking is restraint.”
The restaurant was loud and filled with chatter, so I thought I misheard Chef Adam Perry Lang as he explained his views on simple cooking. I asked him to repeat it again, expecting him to name an actual ingredient, perhaps a fancy kosher salt or a fine olive oil. But nope, I heard it right the first time: The most important ingredient in cooking is restraint. It’s like the culinary version of Coco Chanel’s famous quote – “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory.” And this is exactly what The Simple Fare is all about. The belief that less is more, and that simple food with few ingredients can be easy to cook and taste delicious.
Last week, I had the unique opportunity to attend a dinner at the classic Tosca Café hosted by George Dickel Whisky with barbecue and grilling expert Chef Lang. I was lucky enough to sit across from Chef Lang, and we chatted about everything from the best way to prepare beets to the pros and cons of sous vide cooking. I also was able to try Dickel whisky for the first time, straight up and in a few different cocktails. If you’re looking for a tasty value-priced whisky, I definitely recommend Dickel No.12. It’s smooth enough to sip on its own, but also works nicely in cocktails. One of my favorite cocktails was the Boulevard #12 which includes Campari, similar to a Negroni. Here’s the recipe:
Boulevard #12 by Joe Cleveland of Tosca Café
- .5 oz. George Dickel No. 12
- .5 oz. Campari
- .5 oz. Grand Classico
Build in a mixing glass. Add all ingredients to the mixing glass. Add ice and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel.
Ok, back to the cooking! My conversation with Chef Lang inspired me to share my Sunday Marinara Sauce recipe on the blog. What I love about this sauce is that there are few ingredients but they each serve a purpose to adding specific flavors. I call this my Sunday Marinara Sauce, because I like to make a large batch on Sunday evening which will last me throughout the week. It’s so versatile; the sauce is perfect served with pasta or spaghetti squash, layered into a lasagna, you name it.
Most of the ingredients are those you should already have on hand. I always try to keep several cans of crushed tomatoes in my pantry. Be sure to check the can’s label before adding spices to your sauce, as some brands add salt and herbs to the crushed tomatoes. My recipe assumes plain old crushed tomatoes with nothing added. Also, I have a handful of spices and herbs including oregano and basil (more on my top 10 spices in an upcoming post!). I like to add meat to my marinara sauce, and usually use ground beef or turkey. But, you can keep it a classic marinara and leave it out altogether.
Two of my secret ingredients are sugar (just a teaspoon will do) and a Parmigiano cheese RIND. The sugar offsets some of the acidity and slightly metallic taste in canned tomatoes. And the cheese rind? Yep, save those when you’ve grated through a block of Parm cheese! I wrap the rinds up in plastic wrap then foil, and keep them in the freezer. Adding the rind to the sauce adds a subtle layer of salty, cheesy flavor.
Do you make your own marinara? What are your favorite ingredients to add? Share your comments below!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¾ pound lean ground beef
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- Parmigiano cheese rind (optional)
- In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add olive oil. Add onion and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring regularly. Add minced garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add ground beef to the saucepan and use a spatula to break into small pieces. Stir frequently until the meat has browned evenly. Add oregano, basil, and sugar, then season with a pinch of salt and black pepper.
- Pour crushed tomatoes into the saucepan. Gently stir to combine sauce ingredients. Add cheese rind (optional).
- Reduce heat to low and let simmer with the saucepan lid slightly offset. Let simmer for 15 minutes. Remove cheese rind before serving.