Saturday, September 8, 2012

Tomatoes To Red Sauce

Tomato after Blanching
Your first step to using all those tomatoes for something other than salads is blanching them.  Blanching is an easy little trick that you must add to your toolbox if you haven't already.  Following are the steps to blanching:

1.  Place tomatoes in boiling water for just 1 minute (you don't want to cook them).

2.  Scoop the tomatoes out with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl of ice water.

3.  Skins will split open (see picture above), and you just slip them off the meat of the tomato.  If the skin doesn't split open, just slice the surface lightly with a knife, and the skin will still come right off.

After you have blanched and peeled your tomatoes, next you need your Colorful Paring Knives (Google Affiliate Ad).  (or any paring knife, really)  Cut out the green spot where the tomato used to be connected to the plant and then slice the tomato in half (you will need larger than a paring knife for that cut if you're dealing with anything larger than a Roma).  Squeeze each half of the tomatoes over an empty bowl.  Then place the (mostly) seedless tomato halves in another bowl (or straight into the food processor if you'd prefer).

Skins and Seeds Bowl
Halved Tomatoes Bowl
From here you can do what you'd like with the tomatoes - make pasta sauce, pizza sauce, straight tomato sauce, whatever you fancy.  "What's the difference?" some might ask.  Pasta sauce will be a bit runnier than pizza sauce, along with taste variations that you may prefer.  Straight tomato sauce is when you just take them down to a sauce without any seasoning.

Below is my approach - don't forget I'm a bit of a free spirit, and it shows in the kitchen just like every other part of my life.

1.  Puree tomatoes (or puree it after all the cooking is done - whichever I feel like on a given day).

2.  Cook tomatoes in a pan with a bit of olive oil and fresh oregano and basil from the garden.  Add salt and pepper, of course.  Oh, and don't forget a little sugar - that makes everything taste better.

3.  Meanwhile, saute some onions and garlic (from the garden or farmers' market, of course)...maybe some sweet pepper if you want.  Then throw it into the cooking tomato sauce chunky, or puree it and throw it in (or you can do all the pureeing together at the end if you don't want any chunks).

 4.  Let it all cook down for awhile.  Throw in a little of this and that as you prefer - thyme, mushrooms, chives, whatever.  Take a walk through the garden and see what's growing - throw some shredded squash or zucchini in - no one will ever know.

5.  Now you have pasta sauce.  Throw a few fresh basil leaves on top, and it turns gourmet.  To make it into pizza sauce, you want it thicker.  Some suggestions:  drain some liquid off and keep cooking it down, add some flour, OR stir in some tomato paste from the store - your pizza still counts as homemade! 

Back to picking tomatoes! 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Make Your Own Red Sauce

We are known for calling spaghetti "noodles and red sauce" at our house.  How did this come about?  Because we never consistently have spaghetti noodles in the cupboard, but there is usually some type of pasta available.  Then, of course, there's the fact that one's never sure what kind of sauce might end up on our pasta, but if it's red, it's usually acceptable to a broader range of diners.  One day when my son was in preschool, he made me look like a great homesteader with his description of his favorite food.    Below is one of my favorite preschool stage keepsakes.

Next post will explore processing tomatoes and making red sauce.  (My apologies for the lapse of time without a blog this past week.  Somehow when life gets busy, blogging gets bumped.  I'll post the next ones much quicker.)