Tomato sauce was on sale this week for $0.35 cents a can, so I went crazy at the grocery store and walked out with a cart full of lil' red cans rolling around and clanking against the metal grating like wild ping pong balls.
When I got home to my apartment, I realized that I had forgotten the limits of my closet-sized Bay Area kitchen. I had bought too much. Here, I can no longer ravage the shelves of Costco by buying gallon-sized Dijon mustard or stocking up my freezer with a 10-pound bag of bulk onion bagels. Plus, I found out the hard way that using massive warehouse cans as furniture is only novel for so long.
Although I tried rearranging the cupboards to make room for the tomato sauce, each time I turned my back to retrieve more cans from the grocery bags, an open box of pasta would slide out of the inundated shelves and spill onto the ground. After I realized the unattractiveness of the cans lining the sides of the hallway and the potential poison hazard posed by putting food next to corrosive drain unclogging solution, I decided it was time for the sauce to go and for me to engage in "Iron Chef Battle Canned Tomato Sauce."
With three hours left on my clock, I went crazy. Can openers whirred, razor-thin metal plates flew in the garbage can, pots boiled over, and I furiously chopped fresh tomatoes and cilantro.
Three hours later, I was finished. Tomato sauce was a staple ingredient in every dish that I made.
The first course was a simple pico de gallo salsa, made with sweet vine-ripened tomatoes, pungent tear-inducing yellow onion, freshly-squeezed lime juice, and fistfuls of leafy cilantro. Although not a traditional ingredient, tomato sauce helped unify the sauce ingredients and bring out the fieriness of the hot peppers.
The main course of the evening was chicken enchiladas slathered with a cumin and chili powder-infused tomato sauce and wrapped in soft white corn tortillas. The tops of the enchiladas were sprinkled with blisteringly hot and stringy cheese, while the insides were flavored with pickled jalapeños, shredded chicken breast meat, and refreshing handfuls of chopped cilantro.
The last course was essentially a side dish of Spanish rice. Instead of blending fresh tomatoes to use as the base, using canned tomato sauce adds a depth of richness and vibrancy to the fluffy steamed rice.
Although I considered making tomato sauce ice cream, I called it quits after the rice. However, looking at the damage done to the stocked shelves of tomato sauce, I was content. The empty cans lying lifelessly in the pile of rubble was indicative of a triumphant victory in my "Iron Chef Battle Tomato Sauce."