Updated March 2011.
No matter how old I get (and today is my birthday, so I know I'm getting older), I will never, ever, outgrow ketchup.
In my family, it was always ketchup, Heinz ketchup, that rescued the bad meals (mother's grievously overcooked calf's liver, hard as shoe leather), and enhanced the good ones (dad's perfectly grilled lamb chops). I put it on cheese omelets and mashed potatoes, and everything in between. Sure, ketchup isn't a vegetable, as the USDA now admits, but I could eat five servings a day.
I don't remember ever seeing my mother cook with ketchup, apart from slathering it atop meatloaf or mixing a quick sauce for shrimp cocktail. As my tastebuds, and my own interest in cooking, broadened, I discovered ketchup in recipes for Chinese stir-fry, Malaysian noodles, Indian curries and barbecue sauces.
According to the Food Lover's Companion, ketchup originated in 17th-Century China, where it was a fishy, smelly, pickly condiment (with lots of anchovies, but no tomatoes) called ket-siap. British seamen brought it home, where mushrooms became the dominant flavoring; other ingredients, such as walnuts and vinegar, were added to cater to the European preference for strong sauces. By the 18th Century, ketchup made its way to New England, where tomatoes were added; a century later, Henry Heinz began to bottle and mass-market the product we know today.
Modern-day American ketchup usually has a tomato foundation, though gourmet markets often carry interesting variations (mango ketchup, anyone?). Vinegar gives ketchup its tang, while sugar, salt and spices contribute to the blend.
There is, as it turns out, a correct way to get ketchup out of the bottle. You can invert the bottle and wait, and wait, and wait. You can stick a knife in it, but that can be messy.
Instead, please try this at home: Make a fist with your left hand. With your right hand, invert the bottle on an angle, and rap the lower part of the neck down onto your left fist (on my bottle, above, I hit the 36-ounce label on the neck). This applies the correct G-force to the viscous ketchup, which causes it to flow. No kidding!
Heinz tomato ketchup, approved by NASA for use on the International Space Station, is 130 years old. Makes me feel like a kid again.
Football season chili
Adapted from a recipe from Arthur Manjourides, chef/owner of Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe in Boston's South End. Serves 10.
2 large onions, chopped
1-1/2 cups celery, chopped
4 bell peppers (a mix of red and green), chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 habanero chile pepper, chopped (or jalapeño, for a milder chili)
4 Tbsps olive oil
2 lbs ground sirloin
2 28-oz cans whole peeled tomatoes
4 oz ketchup
2 oz tomato paste
1 cup water
4 bay leaves
1 Tbsp kosher salt
2 heaping Tbsp black pepper, or more to taste
3 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp cayenne pepper
5 Tbsp chili powder, mild or hot, to taste
2 Tbsps dried oregano
4 Tbsps paprika
2 28-oz cans dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, sauté onions, peppers, celery, garlic and chile pepper for 5 minutes in olive oil. In the meantime, in a frying pan, brown the beef. Drain off the fat, and add beef to the vegetables. Break up the tomatoes (hint: cut them into the pot with kitchen shears) and add to the pot with ketchup, tomato paste, 1 cup water, and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Add remaining seasonings, and bring to a simmer. Stir in the kidney beans and cook, uncovered, on low heat for 1 hour. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Can be made ahead; cool, cover and refrigerate.
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Red kidney bean curry, from Smitten Kitchen
Red beans and rice, from Homesick Texan
Ketchup cookies, from David Lebovitz
Ketchup prawns, from Yum-O-Rama
Mom's chili beans, from Simply Recipes
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