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“Good Hello!” (and my new favorite tomato sauce)

April 8, 2011
Echo Park

Echo Park

Recipe: Marcella Hazen and Orangette’s Tomato Sauce

Total Cooking Time: 1 hour

Los Angeles is a city that I like best when it doesn’t look or act like itself. The side of LA that lives up to every stereotype (traffic, strip malls, surfer dudes, plastic beauty, tacky excess and fake spirituality) exists in a big and sometimes unavoidable way. The ugliness of it all was enough to bring me tears more times than I want to admit during the first three years I lived here. The decade before I moved to LA, I was living in cities that aren’t perfect by any means (Seattle, San Francisco, New York) but they put their beauty and charm out for everyone to see.  When the ugliness emerged in the form of three straight months of rain or a “one bedroom” apartment that ended up being a tiny studio with a closet that maybe you could wedge a bed into, I was already so smitten with each city that I was willing to overlook its flaws.

Flower in the Hood

A Flower in My Hood

LA seduces in an entirely different way. Those other cities were love at first sight. My relationship with LA began with us fighting bitterly and testing one another, then slowly becoming tentative friends. Now, after six years, when I see this city flaunting its ugliness, I know that there is another side. There are the lemon trees in my back yard. There are farmers markets year round. There are people who are genuine and funny and wickedly smart. There is amazing architecture between the strip malls and quaint corners that still seem completely undiscovered. Even Sorin, who embraced this city years before I stubbornly refused to, often says at a moment when we’ve stumbled onto a lovely street or hidden little park tucked into the urban sprawl, “This doesn’t feel like we’re even in LA right now.”

Elysian Park Trail

Elysian Park Trail I walk With O

It’s odd to like a city only when you feel like you’re not in it, but that’s the way things are between me and LA. My truce with this city did not start until a year ago when we moved into a new neighborhood, one wedged between hillsides that are occasionally topped with snow in January, a wild, rambling park and the skyscrapers downtown. Echo Park is very urban, but also very lush and green. It’s rough around the edges, but also filled with people walking babies and dogs. I can walk to two coffee shops, a bakery, an outdoor farmers market, a gourmet market and a bookstore. And walk I do – up and down the hills and staircases in the neighborhood, around the trail in the park,  sometimes along Sunset Boulevard.

Downtown LA

My View of Downtown LA

My daily walks started as a way to put a fussy baby to sleep. Then the fussy baby became dependent on the walks to fall asleep and so I had to walk even more. Sometimes I resented the endless walking, wished I had a baby who would humor me occasionally by sleeping in her crib so instead of walking while she slept I could take a shower or maybe even sleep myself.

Now, five months in, I have that baby. I am writing this while she naps, and although her naps are brief and prefaced by at least 20 minutes of wailing, they do happen. Our walks, once a necessity, are now pure pleasure. We still head out once a day, O and I, to explore the neighborhood and clear our heads. She looks curiously out at everything we pass from  the carrier strapped to my chest. These days, there is no fussing and crying while we walk. As Sorin says, “she is a most excellent baby.”

A Lovely Garage in Echo Park

A Lovely Garage in Echo Park

I know these types of walks won’t last forever, when she’s perfectly content in the carrier and I can walk at whatever speed I like for as long as I like. But while they last, I am treasuring every moment, feeling incredibly lucky that I home with my girl and we are exploring the world together.

The other day, exhausted out of my mind from getting up every hour with O the night before (Every. Hour. All night. What’s up with that?) I started my walk grumpy and out of sorts. Soon, though, I felt better. When I saw a neighbor in the park I even called out a loud and cheerful, “Good Hello!” and then cringed with embarrassment when I saw the puzzled look on their face as we passed. I had meant to say either  “hello!” or “good morning!” but my exhausted mind couldn’t sort out the two greetings in time to choose just one.

That evening I was still too tired to make any kind of dinner that required effort, so I used a recipe that is so simple and so tasty and requires such little effort that I’m sure you’re love it too.

1 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes in their juice
1 white or yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
5 tablespoons of butter

Combine the tomatoes in their juice, onion and butter in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat then turn the heat down slightly and simmer gently, uncovered, for at least 45 minutes until the sauce thickens. Remove the onion, add salt to taste, and serve over pasta.

That’s it. Yes, it takes about an hour from start to finish but the only work required from you is putting three ingredients into the saucepan. The recipe comes from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking via Orangette, a guarantee it’s been tested by ladies who know their way around the kitchen.

Noodles and Tomato Sauce

Noodles and Tomato Sauce

This tomato sauce is much better than any canned sauce I’ve bought, even the expensive ones. I change it up a bit sometimes by adding sauteed mushrooms or sausage or a little fresh basil, with great results. I’ve tried it with less butter and it doesn’t taste as good. Those 5 tablespoons are essential and give the sauce it’s body and flavor. The butter cuts the acidity of the tomatoes and gives them a rich, plate-licking  flavor. So don’t skimp on the butter.

This is a recipe that grants you more time to spend with your friends and family and less time at the stove. It’s a good one for Friday nights, when everyone’s tired and starving and a bowl of spaghetti with cheese grated on top  is just what you need to make things right.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Ashley Henderson permalink
    April 8, 2011 10:51 pm

    Jenny…sometimes I read this blog for the food but mostly to hear about life with O. And see your lovely photos. (I usually make the food too. This looks really good!)
    Ashley

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