Books for Everyone!


And the Pasta Sauce . . .

I create my own pasta sauce. Dear Husband says it’s divine. There are those times, however, when I do not slave over the hot stove. I escape the fiery fingers of Chef Bouche.

This domestic flight occurs often during the California Summer Heat Wave. Those yearly infernal phases necessitate confined, restricted living, indoors, in air-conditioning. In this unnatural state of refrigerated existence, I prefer to make a meal that’s quick and easy, one of those much maligned semi-homemade concoctions.

One such cook-in feast is the tortilla pizza. I almost literally lived on these delicioso’s during the three-year span of writing THE DAWN. Dear Daughter accused me of being addicted to them. I told her they were merely a strong habit, especially as a reward after a dental cleaning appointment!

The recipe is courtesy of Jacques Pépin (Chez Jacques, 2007), and it is your basic build-a-pizza. The base layer, or blank canvas, is the large flour tortilla onto which is delicately painted a thin layer of olive oil. Then comes a modest spreading of pasta sauce. I used to use the jar of plum tomato sauce that I have recently learned is yet another vanishing commodity in the USA, or at least in California where eating good food is a guilty pleasure not yet restricted by the Nanny State.

I researched online the various brands of non-sugared pasta sauce available at any local grocery store (which is also becoming a vanishing commodity). Momma mia momma mia! The jars and their contents all looked the same. Only the face on the label changed.

Foregoing the blatantly-sounding corporate brands (produced by behemoth soup conglomerates), we have:

Lidia, Newman’s Own (Paul, the actor), Guy, Emeril, Mario, Giada (I guess if you had a cooking show, you have a pasta sauce); some non-Italian-sounding personal names (Rao, Victoria, Uncle Steve); Italian-sounding restaurant names that I suspect are random computer-generated — much like the names of suburban tract home divisions or their offspring, the public elementary schools:

Pine Canyon, Squirrel Mesa, Quail Glen, Pheasant Meadow, or for the more exotic suburbanite, Clos de Lac, Los Lagos. The rugged Westerner cook gets to choose his designer kitchen chuckwagon from amongst the hideouts at Winchester Ranch, Remington Hills, Ridge Meadows, Timberwood Estates, and Saddleback.

But back to the jarred pasta sauce (and removing the lid can be a jarring experience). Good old standby’s are: Classico (how original) and Barilla.

There are the more rustic-sounding Italiano, restaurant-y names to evoke a sense of basil, oregano and heirloom tomatoes growing right outside the kitchen window, smack-dab in the sun-dried heart of Sicily: Cucina Antica, Organico Bello, Francesco Rinaldi. (I’m not making these names up!)

And where did all of those sun-dried tomatoes of the 2000s in America go?? It was nearly impossible to escape them in any restaurant at the time. They were in salads, sandwiches, pasta, even cakes!

There are the dreaded three-lettered brands, for that personal touch. There are also the inoffensive, bland alpha-numerical combos, quietly monogrammed on the paper label like the exquisite inscriptions on that soft Corinthian leather in the 1975 Cordoba, the small Chrysler. I am somehow reminded of Nick Charles discovering the tell-tale cigar band label in “The Thin Man Goes Home” — Cubana Perfecto.

The brand for which I searched, SMT, is yet another victim of the online amazonian monster, the swamp creature that will soon consume every small under-capitalized brick-and-mortar business, as the creature reaches out to improve the sustainable ecosystems of The World with its non-profit warehouse selling platform tentacles.

In semi-homemade, semi-defeated conclusion, I believe I shall have to fire up Chef Bouche to cook a quick tomato sauce for the quick pizza. The names of the best canned tomato products for my divine sauce shall remain a family secret!