Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Perfect Storm Descends on My Kitchen, Part One

It all started with the tomatoes. Despite the fact that I was using them in salad, cooking with them, and even snacking on whole ones several times a day, there was still a good size basket full that was starting to attract fruit flies. Lots of fruit flies.

“I think you should make a big pot of sauce with the rest of them,” the Hubby said for maybe the tenth time. I, of course, wanted to hoard them, to savor them. A sauce seemed so final. But those fruit flies decided it, and I caved in.

The Hubby was planning on making a slow cooked short rib recipe he saw in Bon App├ętit, so he thought he could use some of the sauce for his recipe. We discussed how to make the sauce before he left for work. To seed or not to seed? He thought I should seed the tomatoes. I didn’t want to waste one drop. And so the conversation went.

After he left, I came up with a compromise. I seeded the tomatoes for the sauce, but I put the seeds into a tea strainer to save the juice for a future use. I had seen a recipe somewhere for a Bloody Mary Martini and thought this light juice might be just perfect. From about twenty tomatoes, I got a full pint of juice, making me so glad I didn’t discard those seeds.

The sauce simmered for three hours and when it was done, I gave it a quick buzz with my Cuisinart Immersion Blender, because I recently realized that might just be the secret to the wonderful texture of the sauces at my favorite Italian restaurants in the North End of Boston. The Kitchen Genius Hubby actually was behind that discovery. It NEVER would have occurred to me to zap my sauce if I hadn’t seen the results of a couple of sauces he made.

When the sauce was done I tasted it and almost swooned. It had an incredibly concentrated tomato flavor. In fact, it was probably the best sauce I have ever made - and maybe even tasted. Right then and there, I knew there was no way I was letting this sauce be a secondary ingredient in a slow cooked recipe (Sorry, Honey!).

Nope, this sauce deserved the spotlight. It deserved a dish that would showcase its bright and brilliant flavor. It might even deserve homemade pasta. Yes, that was it. Homemade pasta! I had always wanted to make homemade pasta. My Mom made it a couple of times when I was growing up and I remember it as being one of the absolute best things I ever ate during my youth. Even better than holupki.

At the same time as the great tomato cook off, I was fretting over coming up with a recipe for my first Royal Foodie Joust at the Foodie Blogroll. The Joust is a monthly cooking contest started by The Leftover Queen where foodies much more experienced than me are given the challenge of creating an original recipe using three ingredients chosen by last month’s winner.

The ingredients for September were fennel (in any form), dairy and parsley. I admit these ingredients stumped me, particularly the combination of fennel and dairy. I was playing around with a recipe that involved Eastham turnips and fennel, roasted in butter and sprinkled with parsley from my garden, but a few of the other bloggers like Foodycat had such incredible recipes, I almost lost my courage to enter at all.

Michele at Life, Lightly Salted, encouraged me to keep it simple and just cook something I would enjoy eating.

I should have taken her advice….stayed tuned.

The Recipe:

Best Ever Fresh Tomato Sauce

25 medium sized tomatoes (I used a combination of red and yellow)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup white wine
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, minced
1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

To peel tomatoes, place a few at a time in a pan of boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on counter to cool. Continue until all tomatoes have been dunked.

Heat Dutch oven over medium heat and add olive oil. Sweat garlic for one minute, then add wine. Remove from heat.

Core and peel skin. Remove seeds and place in tea strainer over bowl to collect juice for another use. Add tomato flesh to Dutch oven. When all tomatoes are processed, add remaining ingredients and stir. Simmer for three hours over very low heat, stirring occasionally.

Lightly blend sauce with immersion blender. Serve with your favorite pasta.


Meg said...

Awesome tomato sauce recipe!!

Laurie said...

Thanks, Meg! It really was my best one ever.

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