Saturday, November 8, 2014

When life hands you tomatoes...

Last month, the husband had decided to pick 20 pounds of tomatoes at a local u-pick-em farm.  When we got home, he asked me what I planned to do with them.

After getting over my offense at 1950s gender stereotypes, I made a batch of salsa... but what to do with the last 5 pounds?  And what to do with the other odds and ends of vegetables that he picked?  A giant batch of pasta sauce to stock the fridge appeared to fit the bill.

First - I decided not to can this.  While tomato products are some of the easiest things to can, you have to watch the acidity carefully to make sure that you can use the water bath canner (i.e. the big pot that you already own) instead of a pressure canner (extra equipment that I don't own).  Besides, at this point we were down to 5 pounds of tomatoes, so we'd only be canning 3 or 4 jars.  Timed this to use some sauce for dinner that day, made plans to make a lasagne for the freezer in a few days, and resigned myself to having pasta every other day for the next week, and the entire small batch could live in the fridge.

  • 5 pounds of tomatoes.
  • 2 onions in a small dice.  As small as you can while still cutting in onion in less than 60 seconds so that you can run out of the room crying and flushing out your eyes with water in the other room due to the pain, but not having to go back and resume cutting that onion.  Yes, you could cut the onion under water, but I have not figured out how to do that without cutting yourself as well.  Suck it up, cut the onion in half, and try to keep the cut sides facing the cutting board or another cut side of the onion, and you can get through it.
  • 3-4 sweet peppers.  I like colorful bell peppers, but whatever you have in the house works.  Don't splurge on the red ones... remember that the base of the sauce is red, so the color will be lost, and they taste the same as the cheaper green ones.
  • Garlic.  Double whatever you think is reasonable.
  • Herbs.  I have basil and oregano plants on my balcony, so I just grabbed a couple leaves from each, minced.
  • 1 bottle of Chianti.  Cheap Chianti.
End result
  • Pour yourself a glass of Chianti.
  • Prep your tomatoes.  You can peel them if you like, but I'm lazy.  Not optional, you need to wash them, core them, and remove the seeds and the plasma that encases the seeds.  You're controlling the water content of the final product.  Dice. I throw them through a mini-chopper food processor when I'm doing a bunch.
  • Core and seed the peppers.  You want these in a fine dice.
  • Sip some wine.  
  • Rummage through your fridge for anything else that you may want to add.  A couple mushrooms?  Quarter of a package of spinach?  Do baby carrots go with pasta sauce?  Contemplate the answers to these questions, and top off your glass of wine.
  • Mince the garlic and dice the onions.  Recompose yourself.  Sip wine.  
  • At the bottom of a stock pot, coat the bottom in a thin layer of olive oil.  Thin.  No one likes oily sauce, but no one likes burnt onions.  Put the heat on medium / medium-low, and add the onions and garlic.  These guys need to sweat for a while.
  • When these look translucent, add the peppers and the odds and ends from the fridge.  Give it a couple minutes.
  • Pour the pot a glass of wine.  4 to 8 oz. should do it... You want to cover the onions, but not drown them.  Let this come up to a boil.
  • Sip your own wine.
  • Add the tomatoes.  Bring this to a boil, then simmer on low for an hour.  Or two.  Whatever.  Take your wine to the other room and watch an episode of Scandal. 
  • When the sauce has reduced a bit, add the minced herbs (yeah, you can just sprinkle some dried crap into the sauce if you have no potted herb plants, but why would you do this to yourself?).  Stir, and let it simmer for 5 more minutes.
  • You're done!  Use some for dinner now, put the rest in the fridge after it has cooled down a bit.

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