Saucy!

Tomato sauce that is…this summer has been a fantastic summer in Portland for tomatoes.   I have 4 VERY healthy Sun Gold plants that have been producing consistently for over a month and they are still going.

Between my garden and CSA I’m swimming in tomatoes – so I’ve been experimenting with making tomato sauce.  I’m not a chef, I’m barely “a cook”.  I don’t like to follow recipes, I cook by gut, so I will not be able to supply accurate measurements for my current favorite basic sauce but here are my best guesses:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil (you can use less but I love the rich taste)
  • 6 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 cups finely diced onions
  • 1 cup finely diced celery
  • 1 cup shredded or finely diced carrots
  • 6 cups peeled, seeded tomatoes and diced
  • 1/4 white wine
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • Butter (optional but adds richness – and who doesn’t like butter????)

Step 1:  Peel Tomatoes

I like to blanch my whole tomatoes to remove the skins.   I cut a little criss-cross on the bottom of each tomatoe and then drop them into boiling water for about 30 sec.  Remove the tomatoes and put them directly into an ice bath to stop cooking.  The skins should slide right off.  If they don’t then you can drop back in the boiling water a little longer.

Step 2:  Seed and Dice Tomatoes

This is the most tedious part of the whole process.  I put on my favorite Pandora station or podcast and settle in…it will take about a 1/2 hour.  I cut the peeled tomatoes into quarters and then scoop the seeds out with my hands over a strainer that I place sitting on a bowl (to capture the juice).  It’s messy and not pretty but worth the time.  After I’ve removed the seeds from all the tomatoes I then dice and remove any bits I don’t want in my sauce – like stems.  Keep the juice that you captured below the strainer.

Step 3:  Saute Veggies

Diced onions, celery and carrots are a base for thousands of dishes.  The French call this a Mirepoix.  Saute your mirepoix (sounds like I know what I doing now right?) and garlic until the veggies soften and the onions become translucent.  Be sure not to saute at too high of a heat or you will burn your garlic, make it incredibly bitter, which could ruin your dish (speaking from experience).

Step 4:  Cook-Down

Add tomatoes, wine, and salt and pepper and cook – cook – cook – uncovered until it’s starts to get “pasty”.  I taste as it goes and if it gets too thick you can add some of the reserved tomato juice from the seeding process or more wine depending on the taste.  It’s at this point you can add some butter as well – up to you.

I don’t add any herbs to the basic sauce.  The tomatoes are so tasty that I don’t want to hide their taste – I season later depending on the final use.

Step 5:  EAT

Use the sauce however you want.  I like mine really thick.  I just put it on pasta and add fresh basil and a really good grated parmesan.

Enjoy!

CSA – 2nd Week

One of my goals this year was to join a local CSA.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term CSA, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  You basically buy your food directly from the farmer!  You pay upfront and then receive harvest throughout the year.   Here are some advantages of a CSA (copied directly from the http://www.localharvest.org/csa/):

Advantages for farmers:

  • Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
  • Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow
  • Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow

Advantages for consumers:

  • Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
  • Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
  • Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
  • Find that kids typically favor food from “their” farm – even veggies they’ve never been known to eat
  • Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown

If you want to find a CSA in your area checkout Local Harvest.

I joined Sauvie Island Organics.  I chose this CSA because it’s been in business for quite a while, has a great reputation, friends have used it, pick-up is just blocks from my house, and it supplies some of my favorite local restaurants.  Plus, they have a great blog, you can see the harvests from past years, they have partnered with a local chef who posts recipes specific to that week’s harvest, and they send you an email right before the weekend to give you an idea what is coming so you can shop accordingly!

I signed up for a half-share (good for 1-2 people), and a salad share.  So far I’m very happy!  The greens have been amazing.  I highly recommend this to folks who love veggies, want to support local farming, and what to get out of rut and cook with some new veggies they might not normally buy.