Monday, July 30, 2012

Fresh Tomato Sauce for the Lazy Cook

I have always believed that the way to make real tomato sauce is to slowly cook fresh peeled tomatoes, sautéed peppers and onions, plus fresh minced herbs, while channeling an Italian grandmother and sipping a glass of red wine. This past week I discovered there’s a much simpler, lazier way.

Summer has been trolling along in a very unproductive way for me. I’ve barely kept up with the weeds, my running mileage is way down on account of the fact that I hate running when it’s hot and humid (and it’s been six-bajillion degrees and balmy for two months now), and you’ve probably noticed I’ve been neglecting my blogs a bit. No excuses really, just enjoying my kids, my family, my friends, and my air-conditioning. 

So, back to my discovery. In a moment of guilt, I decided that I needed to get my act together and plan some menus so that our dinners would no longer be a mad scramble or a everyone-fend-for-yourself affair as has been most of our meals this summer. I planned pasta with fresh spaghetti sauce for Thursday because our tomatoes are just starting to ripen. Great idea, problem was that I got distracted by a writing deadline, laundry caught on the line in a sudden thunderstorm, and my elderly dog who was struggling more than usual. These were all things that honestly necessitated my attention.  

It was 5:30 when I had time to get dinner going, and we had to be out the door for a kid-activity by 6:30. No time for fresh sauce. Or was there? 

I picked six beautiful tomatoes and decided I didn’t have time to peel them, so I simply cored and seeded them and threw them in the food processor. I processed the tomatoes until no more skins were evident (children are opposed to skins on most fruits and veggies).

I pulled out an onion and pepper and ran to the barn for some garlic cloves that I’d left to drying along with my plans to braid them by their green stalks like I saw on a farm visit last season. (It’s too late now, I discovered as the green stalks are brown and crispy as fallen twigs, alas, maybe next year).  

There wasn’t time to sauté the veggies, so I threw all of them in the food processor along with a handful of fresh basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, and a tiny bit of tarragon. I processed this mess until it was an unrecognizable brownish mass that looked a bit like dog barf. (see pic) I suppose I could have chopped them finely, but that would require a longer cook time and my kids tend to turn their noses up at recognizable vegetables. 

I threw the red and brown purees in a pot on the stove with some salt, pepper, and a can of tomato paste (for thickening) and ten minutes later I had delicious fresh sauce! Really it was beyond yum. The only complaint at dinner came from my oldest who said the sauce was too sweet! Can’t believe I’ve wasted so many hours of my life peeling tomatoes and cooking down my pasta sauce! I think all those Italian grandmas just wanted an excuse to hang out in the kitchen.

I plan to experiment next time by adding some red wine, more garlic, and maybe one of my flavored olive or grapeseed oils. Now that I know it isn’t an all afternoon commitment, I’ll be brewing up fresh sauce on a regular basis.

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