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GOOD COOKING

Go Big Red

August 20, 1992|ABBY MANDEL

Freshly made tomato sauce is back in style. No wonder. It's tasty, low in fat and amazingly versatile: There's hardly a meat, poultry, sausage or fish dish that can't be enhanced by a great red sauce.

And red sauce is unbelievably practical to make. Right now you can easily cook up vast quantities to freeze. It keeps its fresh flavor for months.

It's best to freeze the sauce in a variety of quantities, so you can thaw just what you'll need for a specific meal. Plastic ice cube trays are ideal for freezing small amounts (freeze the sauce in the tray, then pop the cubes into an airtight plastic bag for easy access). These work well for toppings on tortillas, baked potatoes or omelets.

On the other hand, you'll need a large quantity of sauce for a Sunday-night pasta supper. Plastic containers or airtight freezer bags are ideal for large quantities. If water accumulates on the surface of the sauce after it's thawed, don't worry about it; depending on the consistency of sauce needed, mix it together or drain it off.

If you use a food processor, you won't have to peel the tomatoes, because the skins are pureed and undetectable. Here's how to do it: Cut ripe tomatoes in half crosswise, as you would cut a grapefruit. Gently squeeze the halves over the sink to release most of the juice and seeds. Cut these tomato halves in quarters. Process a cupful at a time until the consistency is as smooth as possible. A blender will accomplish the same result, but you'll have to work in much smaller batches.

Roasting red peppers is easy too--if you cut them in large pieces. (Leaving them whole commits you to a lot of close attention and repeated turning.) Stand the peppers on a board and cut the sides off in three or four flat slabs. Discard the core and seeds. Arrange the slabs, skin side up, on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Broil 6 inches from the heat until the skin is blackened, no more than 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and wrap the peppers in the foil to cool. Slip off the skins when the peppers can be handled.

This recipe for red tomato sauce is made piquant and full-bodied by the addition of roasted red peppers.

RED SAUCE WITH ROASTED RED PEPPERS

2 large cloves garlic, peeled

4 large sweet red peppers, roasted, see note

4 pounds ripe tomatoes, halved crosswise, juiced and seeded, quartered

2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper

Puree garlic, peppers and tomatoes in batches in food processor or blender (mixture should be fairly smooth). Transfer ingredients into 4-quart-capacity non-aluminum pot. Add thyme, oregano, sugar, salt and crushed pepper. Bring to boil. Simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. For last 5 minutes, boil sauce until consistency is as thick as desired, stirring constantly.

Adjust seasonings to taste (be careful about adding more salt if sauce is to be used with cheese, which is often salty). Makes about 5 servings.

Each serving contains about:

98 calories; 270 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 22 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 2.77 grams fiber.

Whole-wheat dough has a bland flavor that works especially well with this red sauce with roasted red peppers. This pizza recipe is simple yet very good; add any other ingredients that you like, such as cooked sausage, cured black olives, varied cheeses , etc. If one pizza round is enough for you, freeze the other one for another meal.

WHOLE-WHEAT PIZZA WITH RED SAUCE, ONIONS AND CHEESE

1 package dry yeast

2 tablespoons honey

1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)

1 3/4 cups stone-ground whole-wheat flour (more if dough is sticky)

1 cup bread flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Oil and cornmeal for pan

1 1/2 cups Red Sauce With Roasted Peppers

12 thin slices red onion, rings separated

2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons olive oil, optional

Salt

Crushed hot red pepper

Julienned fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Stir yeast and honey into warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Mix and knead dough in food processor fitted with metal blade, mixer with dough hook or by hand. Place 1 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour, bread flour, salt and olive oil into respective bowl.

For food processor or mixer, turn machine on and slowly add yeast mixture. Mix until dough cleans sides of bowl. Add very small amounts of flour or water as necessary to make dough moist but not too sticky. Once this consistency is achieved, mix dough until well kneaded, uniformly supple and elastic, about 40 seconds in food processor, about 6 minutes in mixer.

To mix by hand, make well in center of ingredients. Pour yeast mixture into well. Work yeast mixture into ingredients, making sure consistency is moist but not too sticky. Knead dough on floured board until elastic and smooth, about 10 minutes.

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