Thursday, September 4, 2008

Christine's End of Summer Tomato Sauce

Summers here are far too short and often foggy. Then comes Autumn with beautiful sunny days, star-studded nights and nippy mornings followed by warm, balmy afternoons.

And then there are tomatoes. . .
A plethora of tomatoes, ripening all at the same time, sending cooks into a frenzy trying to preserve them for the winter ahead. I'm proud to say that these beauties are just a few that came from my greenhouse this summer.
Here's a tomato sauce that can be prepared in a snap. Freeze some in zip-top bags for hearty winter meals. And if you can't wait that long, in the next few posts I'll show you some of the dishes we made recently to go with it.

Christine's End of Summer Tomato Sauce

5 pounds tomatoes, cut into chunks. Save juice.
1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes packed in extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tube (2-3 tablespoons) sun dried tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar (Splenda or Agave may be used instead)
2 bay leaves (I use fresh, but then I'm lucky)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon Italian herbs, crushed
5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

Place the tomato chunks and juice In a large pot over medium-high heat and cook until all the juices are released from the tomatoes.
Add the salt, sugar, sun dried tomatoes, tomato paste, and bay leaves. Cook until the tomatoes are really saucy, about 10 minutes.
Add the Italian herbs and garlic and cook until the sauce has reduced a bit and thickened, about 15 minutes more. The tomatoes will still be chunky but very soft.
Remove the pot from the heat and allow the sauce to cool for 10 minutes.
Remove the bay leaves and pulse the sauce in a food processor (you may have to do this in several batches) until the tomatoes break up into very small pieces but are still noticeable and the skins are not noticeable at all.
Pour the sauce back into the pot, stir it up and adjust the taste, if necessary, with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cook's Notes:
> Leaving the skins on the tomatoes and buzzing them in the food processor gives this sauce a lot of body, so before you turn your nose up at cooked tomato skins, give it a try.
> Delicious by itself, this sauce begs to be a vehicle for any number of fresh, ripe vegetables. Serve it over grilled eggplant or zucchini topped with grated cheese; or combine it with cooked ground turkey or chicken and toss it with pasta. Add fresh basil to the warm sauce then spoon it over an omelette and sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley. Add capers, lemon zest and a pinch of cayenne and serve over oven roasted cauliflower. I'm sure you'll come up with something creative.

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