The Heart Sauces: The Pasta & Sauce Party

by Joan Greenblatt

“Shariputra, form does not differ from emptiness,
emptiness does not differ from form.
That which is form is emptiness,
that which is emptiness form.”

—The Heart Sutra

[image1_full]It is always good to touch the heart, the source of all, especially when the world around us may appear overwhelming from time to time. Paring things down to its center, in all simplicity, is very helpful. In the above quote from The Heart Sutra emptiness and form complete and void each other in an eternal nonmovement—the very circle of existence.

At the heart of one’s cooking, the essence of a meal can be a simple or complex sauce. They can be used is so many ways, especially to top the more neutral aspect of the meal, rice, pasta, bread or grains. One day, I had some friends over for a pasta and sauce party. We worked together to make a number of sauces, cooked the pasta and presented them buffet style.

Eggplant Tomato Sauce
Inspired by my friend Robin Devine (that’s her real name) this sauce took birth when we were using some eggplant for another dish and had a few cups left over. Instead of tossing it in a container we fried it up and combined it with some tomato sauce that happened to be cooking on the stove. Wah la!

3 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped small
1 C mushrooms, chopped small
1 T ginger, fresh, grated
2 cloves garlic, chopped small
1 t salt
½ t oregano, dried
2 T fresh basil
½ t cayenne pepper
1 eggplant, chopped very small
1 t brown sugar or maple syrup
1 16 oz can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes in their own juice
1 8 oz. can tomato paste.

SAUTE onion, mushrooms, ginger in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic, basil and cayenne and fry for a few moments.
STIRFRY eggplant until tender
ADD sugar, tomatoes and paste. Simmer for about ½ hour.
ADJUST salt and sugar to taste.

Pine Nut/Walnut Pesto
Be careful when toasting pine nuts, attention is essential, one time I was busy in the kitchen and my toasted pine nuts burned to a crusty black. Since I only had half the amount left to make pesto, I used some walnuts I had on hand. It turned out to be a great combination and my best pesto ever! Blend together until very smooth, add salt to taste.

¼ C pine nuts
¼ C walnuts, make sure they are fresh, they go bad very quickly.
½ C olive oil
¼ C parmesan cheese, ¼ C Romano cheese
½ t salt
3 C basil, cut loosely

Tofu Peanut Sauce
This is a standard recipe, I often use tahini (sesame seed paste) but when that is not available peanut butter will do just as well. Blend together until very smooth, add tamari to taste.

1 lb fresh tofu, firm
½ C peanut butter
3 T tamari (soya sauce)
3 t ginger, freshly grated
½ C light coconut milk (available in grocery stores in Asian section)
2 T canola oil

Tomato/Garlic Bread
1 large loaf of bread
3 garlic, cloves, minced
¼ C margarine or butter, melted
20-30 tomatoes, cherry, cut in half
¼ C basil, leaves, torn roughly
black pepper, freshly cracked

Cut a large crusty bread into ¼” wedges. Place on two cookie sheets. Melt margarine or butter in small pan, add garlic and fry for a few seconds, don’t burn. Top bread with tomatoes and basil. Drizzle butter mixture over bread. Top with cracked pepper. Broil for five to ten minutes until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet and keep warm so they will not dry out. Serve immediately.

Boil 4 cups of water to each ½ C of pasta. Keep warm water on the stove. When you are about to serve the meal bring water to a boil again, add 1 T salt. When the water reaches a rolling boil, add pasta. Cook according to recommended time. Drain thoroughly and place into a large bowl. Drizzle a few tablespoons of cooking water and olive oil over the top.