Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Ketchup's history rich and spicy

The Saucy Cook

By Mary Jo Spiegel
Enquirer contributor

I admit it. I didn't give ketchup any respect. I even poked fun at the notion of "America's national condiment" being included in a Thai dish a couple of columns ago.

But Carol Heideman in Blue Ash writes, "Catsup comes to us from Asia and was originally a spicy condiment with pickled fish as one of the ingredients. The Thai word is pronounced very similarly to catsup. This Thai condiment is used in many Thai recipes."

So, it was more than just a vegetable during the Reagan administration?

Much more, according to Andrew F. Smith's scholarly book Pure Ketchup (University of South Carolina Press; $24.95). With a long history, ketchup, which means sauce, can be made of most anything. The tomato variety is relatively new. While Heinz is considered the vanguard, in the late 19th century Cincinnati was a tomato ketchup-making heavyweight with brands like Tip Top and Pure Gold.

Revive our tomato ketchup making-history with this easy homemade version from the New Basics Cookbook (Workman; $19.95). This recipe is designed for a 700-watt carousel microwave - cooking time will vary according to your microwave's power. Serve it with pride.

Tomato Time Ketchup

3 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Arrange tomatoes in single layer in 21/2-quart microwave-safe casserole.

Cover with plastic wrap. Cook at full power for 40 minutes, stopping to stir every 10 minutes. Allow to cool.

Puree tomatoes in food processor or blender. Strain puree, extracting as much pulp and juice as possible. Return juice to casserole, stir in remaining ingredients. Cook, uncovered, stirring every 10 minutes, for 30 minutes or until thick. Makes 2 cups ketchup.

• Linda Fatherree in Clifton does not have Watson Brother's Brewhouse's roasted red pepper soup for Janet Sherrod of Deer Park. But, Linda says, "it can't be any better than this recipe a friend gave to me years ago."

Red Pepper Soup

7 red bell peppers

3 carrots

3 shallots

1 clove garlic

1 pear, peeled and quartered

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 quart chicken stock

1 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper

Dash cayenne

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup heavy cream

Fresh tarragon (optional)

Creme fraiche (optional)

Slice one pepper in half, core and remove stem. Broil, skin side up, until skin chars, about 5 minutes. Place roasted pepper in plastic bag, seal and let steam 15 minutes. Peel, chop and set aside.

Thinly slice remaining bell peppers, carrots, shallots, garlic and pear. Saute in olive oil until tender, but not browned. Add stock, dried red pepper, cayenne, salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, 25-30 minutes. Add roasted pepper to soup mixture. Puree soup in blender, then reheat, adding cream.

Garnish with tarragon, creme fraiche or a swirl of heavy cream. Makes 4 servings.

Can you help?

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Geoff Robbins of Okeana would sacrifice a week's milk money for another taste of Gamble Junior High's apple crisp.

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