Each year at about this time I have one of my favorite “problems.” Remember this? Well this year we have the bounty of our CSA share, a generous co-worker and my in-laws’ incredible garden (they have tomato plants growing “wild” in their compost pile that are producing more tomatoes than any plants in my garden ever have – true story.) I feel kind of fortunate, actually, that my garden is full of weeds at the moment – we never made the time to get anything in it before it got too hot…you know, back in February – because I don’t know what I’d do with any more vegetables!
Tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, basil , squash, and more tomatoes. I’ve made zucchini cakes and zucchini bread…two kinds of pickles…squash casserole and even pickled some peppers. But we’re not talking about any of that today. Tomatoes are what we are talking about today. I’m not a huge fan of canning, though I wish I were. But I do like to make big batches of things and freeze them. Like tomato sauce.
I read a bunch of different recipes for tomato sauce and settled on a combination of two, with some adjustments for my own laziness. I’m not going to peel tomatoes. I’m just not going to do it. And I sort of seeded them…if you count cutting them in half and quickly squeezing them over the sink as “seeding.” What can I say? I like to cook, but come on, I also have a million other things I must get to before midnight.
So with those exceptions, I generally followed the recipes and wound up with a tomato sauce that my husband said was one of the best he’s ever tasted – and that included all those trips to Italy…I was sure to clarify that. He made sure I kept my notes. And also wanted to know how much of a stash was going in the freezer. Oh, and could he please have this for Father’s Day over gnocchi followed by blueberry pie?
This sauce is not unlike the Bolognese sauce…but without the meat. And I only reduced twice instead of three times. Oh, another thing the recipe does not call for is the blender. I added that part to make up for the fact that I did not peel them. And also because I think it looks prettier when it’s all smooth like that.
I think it clings to the pasta and meatballs better when it’s smooth like this… divine!
And so went Father’s Day dinner…and the boys liked it as much as he did, so that’s a bonus. (I didn’t tell them about all the other vegetables that were in there!)
Followed up by blueberry pie with “yuck” cream (as we call it in our house thanks to my younger brother’s honesty at a semi-fancy restaurant one time when we were little. The chef asked him how he liked it just as my brother skimmed a big spoonful of real whipped cream, sans sugar, off the top of his dessert…disappointed and confused that it didn’t taste like CoolWhip as he’d expected, he looked up and said, “It’s YUCK.” Cue: my mother’s mortification. My brother has never lived it down. However, that chef would be pleased to know that CoolWhip has rarely, if ever, been in my house, I just can’t eat the stuff, and I happily whip fresh cream when we need it…with a little bit of sugar and vanilla, just in case my brother shows up.)
A perfect pie for the Fourth of July, if you are so inclined. The recipe can be found here.
And finally, tomato sauce…
6-8 pounds of fresh tomatoes
2 TB olive oil
2 TB butter
8-10 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4-6 carrots, chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
2 cups red wine
1/4 – 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped (depending on taste)
Cut tomatoes in halves or quarters and squeeze out as many seeds as you can. Coarsely chop tomatoes and set aside.
In a large stock pot over medium heat, melt butter and add olive oil. Add garlic, onions, bell pepper and carrots and cook until they start to soften, 5-8 minutes. Add tomatoes, vegetable stock and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer and let reduce for at least 90 minutes. (Watch for the lines on the inside of the pot to tell how much liquid has cooked off – it should be at least an inch, two is better.) Repeat with the wine and reduce for 2 hours. Add chopped basil for the last 10 minutes and remove bay leaves. Allow to cool enough to go into a blender (or use an immersion blender in the pot) and process until smooth.
If freezing, be sure to cool completely before placing in bags for freezer. Also, I made this the following week with the next batch of tomatoes and I omitted the peppers and carrots…simpler flavor, but just as yummy.