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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

fresh tomato sauce

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Arthur’s lunch

Every week I bring lunch to Arthur at the Wednesday South Anchorage Farmers’ Market. Arthur is the farmers’ market manager, and I’m his market reporter. He’s also a farmer, and brings all kinds of fantastic produce to sell on Saturdays and Wednesdays. Dan and I only bake our Rise & Shine Bakery bread for the Saturday market, so on Wednesdays I can visit the farmers’ market in a leisurely fashion, usually accompanied by Meredith (my four-year-old). We have time to browse the selections at each stand, shoot some photographs, banter with the farmers, and browbeat my fellow customers into buying vegetables they haven’t tried before. (Today I crusaded for Savoy cabbage.)

Arthur loves my cooking, and I’m always telling him about some delicious dish I’ve made with his great produce. I used to bring Arthur little samples of dishes I’d made, but one day he suggested that I bring him lunch on Wednesdays and he’d trade me for vegetables! Such a deal for both of us! He’s so thrilled with a home-cooked lunch on a long busy day that he’s happy to pile my tote bags high with broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, peas, zucchini, cucumbers, and other bounty.

And sometimes, I get REALLY lucky. Like a couple of weeks ago. I went to the market with all the makings for a big, beautiful Caesar salad for Arthur and Mary Jane (she helps Arthur sell the produce). And Arthur said “Hey! Do you like to make tomato sauce?” He had a bunch of tomatoes that didn’t sell at the last market, so they were just a little too ripe to sell. “What, are you crazy?” I leaped at the question. “Of course I’d make tomato sauce!” Every Alaska-grown tomato is a tomato raised in a greenhouse, so having enough extra to make sauce is a rare event. In fact, I’ve never done it. I usually just eat them raw. Big tomatoes in salads, the little ones straight out of the bag on the way home from the market. Mmmm.

So, this afternoon, Dan helped me make tomato sauce to freeze! And boy is it yummy. Just in case you happen to get a windfall of tomatoes, here’s a fun sauce to make.

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fresh tomato sauce

I admit, if I didn’t have a friend with a really big greenhouse, I’d never make tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes. If you are lucky enough to have lots of tomatoes, you can increase the amount of sauce accordingly, to freeze. It’s a variation on one of Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s tomato sauce recipes in The Italian Country Table. Most tomato sauce recipes (including hers) tell you to use a food mill to get rid of the skins at the end of the process, but 1) I don’t have a food mill, and 2) I like my sauce chunky. So I just peeled the tomatoes at the beginning to avoid the little tough bits of skin in the sauce, and blendered it up a little at the end.

sauce

2 pounds ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, minced fine
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced fine (the easiest way I’ve found is to use a coffee grinder)
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
2 large cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon sugar

pasta & toppings

½ pound pasta, such as spaghetti. (I prefer whole-wheat.)
kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
chopped parsley

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. You can use this water to prepare the tomatoes, and then to boil the pasta, so wash your tomatoes first. Mark an “X” in the bottom of each tomato with a serrated knife. Put 3 or 4 tomatoes in the water at a time for 30 seconds to a minute, until the skin starts to peel away from the “X.” Remove tomatoes with a slotted spoon, and cool in a bowl as you dip the other tomatoes. Peel the skin off the tomatoes and remove the core with a paring knife. Cut the peeled tomatoes into wedges.
2. Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt and sauté the onions to golden-brown, stirring often with a wooden spatula.
3. Stir in the rosemary, garlic, tomatoes, and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often and scraping down the sides of the pot. Cook about 15 minutes, until the tomatoes have thickened and the tomato flesh is softened.
4. At this point, you’ll probably still have lots of chunks of tomato flesh in the pot. If you like it chunky, leave it this way. I wanted it a little smoother, though, so I used an immersion blender to puree some of the tomato pieces into the sauce. It still left the sauce quite chunky. If you don’t have an immersion blender, put some of the sauce into a blender and puree.
5. Now, stir it all around and taste it. Add more salt until you have the right balance of flavors. If you want the sauce to be thicker, boil it down some more.
6. Salt the tomato-dipping water and bring it back to a boil. Cook your pasta in that fiercely boiling water until done to your liking.
7. Serve the pasta with generous amounts of sauce, and top with a sprinkling of olives and parsley. 


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