Friday, March 20, 2015

The Birth of Ugly Sauce

Who would have thought that I would find love at the Thunder game? Let me explain—I found buffalo mozzarella on a panini at a thunder game. Same difference. Walking around the concourse pre-game, I wasn't even hungry. The smell of roasting processed pork and enriched flour pretzels didn't call to me with their siren song.

But then, we turned the corner and came upon a mouth-wateringly gorgeous aroma.

It was cheese.

I was a goner.

In a tiny little kiosk I found the sandwich diets are busted for, at Full Court Press, which promised gourmet grilled cheese. We continued our walk around the arena (which takes like a full minute at most) and while my husband entered to watch the players practice before the game, I continued a few gates down to find that cheese nirvana.

Grilled Caprese sandwich from Full Court Press.

I had the "Caprese," with fresh mozzarella, Roma tomatoes, basil, balsamic glaze and sourdough bread. It was as promised, reminiscent of a Caprese salad but made better by the inclusion of grilled bread and served on a bed of what appeared to be hand-cut potato chips.

I didn't even share a bite of it and I'm not even sorry.

But I am sorry that a few days later, I was craving the sandwich. Not willing to shell out the cash for a game ticket, I figured I'd have to DIY my own version of the sandwich.

Sandwich in the making.
I grabbed good bread and pre-sliced fresh mozzarella but my grocery store did not have fresh basil that day. I have frozen basil for just such a problem, so that was covered. Instead of fresh tomatoes, which can have a watery flavor on a grilled sandwich, I wanted something more like a tomato jam. Couldn't find that but I had sundried tomatoes, so that was a win.

To recreate the sandwich, I combined 2 teaspoons basil, 1 clove garlic, 2 rehydrated sundried tomato halves (chopped) and 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar. Chop it all up and combine it. It made a great sandwich spread (just enough for one) and I tested the final result on the kids and they gave it enthusiastic approval.

Finished test sandwich.
It didn't last long.
It wasn't pretty, but it was tasty, really tasty. Sort of looks like an olive tapenade but the flavor is explosive in the best way possible. The sandwich wasn't perfect, though; grilling a fresh mozzarella sandwich, I can see the need for a panini pan—the bread toasted well before the cheese even approached melting. But there were really no complaints. The kids even asked if they could have ugly sauce sandwiches for dinner. Because what else would you call this sauce?

Not having enough bread in the cupboard to make enough sandwiches for dinner, I realized that this would make for a tasty pizza. So I whipped up another batch of ugly sauce, increasing the amounts for three personal pizzas, and used a food processor to mix it all together this time.

The results were great. Pretty? No. Not even close. There's a reason we now call this "ugly sauce," but don't let that fool you—it's tasty.

Not a great picture but such great sauce!
Mini pizzas with fresh mozzarella & ugly sauce.
Ugly Sauce

4 cloves garlic
8 teaspoons chopped basil (fresh or frozen)
8 sundried tomato halves, rehydrated
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a small food processor and pulse until combined.

Spread on your carbohydrate of choice: we used Italian sandwich bread with fresh mozzarella for sandwiches; for pizza, we used pre-made pizza dough and topped the spread with fresh mozzarella, julienned salami, black olives and artichokes.

This sauce was easy, fast and flavorful. I used a few of my favorite secret ingredients from my freezer: individual pizza crusts and pre-portioned basil and garlic. Pizza crusts come in many different sizes and types, but these thin and crispy crusts are what we use. And if you haven't found the frozen garlic and herbs, check your store's freezer aisles—they are fantastic time savers that help to make weeknight cooking (and not take out or reheating) a reality.

Some of my secret weapons. I buy the pizza crusts when I have coupons for them
and freeze until needed. The basil and garlic cubes are just 2 of the varieties
available from a few different brands—I've also seen ginger, parsley & cilantro

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