‘You know, when you get your first asparagus, or your first acorn squash, or your first really good tomato of the season, those are the moments that define the cook’s year. I get more excited by that than anything else.’ (Mario Batali)
It is tomato time!! How exciting to walk out to my garden to find my vines bursting with ripe, luscious red tomatoes. Or to steal out to the garden, amongst the leaves and fruit, to sprinkle salt on the freshest of treats. Although my garden may be small, it is a bumper crop year for my little beauties. It is only my fourth year trying my hand at gardening but I am finding that more and more each year, I crave the first warm days of spring and the arrival of my little vegetable seeds and plants. It must be my italian blood and the lessons learned from my neighbor, Farmer Nick whose family has farmed this soil for many years, that have given me such luck. There are hundreds of tomatoes, large and small, red and green, on my vines as the weather in Pennsylvania this summer has been ideal for my garden. A soak of my newly discovered tomato food, Sea Magic, have sent my plants skyrocketing to dizzying heights. Ever the entreprenuers, Nick and I decided to try our hand at a farm stand – third season that we are open for business. Tomatoes, zucchinis, parsley, peaches, flowers fill the shelves and this year, I am happy to report we are ahead of our previous year’s bounty by a whopping $150 so far! Already my plans are underway to expand my garden for next season as I pour over vegetable catalogues from this season, readying for the next season to begin.
When last we met, I was headed out to the garden to pick our tomato crop for a Roasted Tomato Sauce. With so many tomatoes ready for picking, I tried this recipe a few different ways this week, varying the ingredients and method slightly. I tried the garlic chopped and tossed amongst the tomatoes as well as roasted separately. Either way works just beautifully but I am slightly favoring roasting the garlic on its own. It seems to add a bit more depth to the sauce. I also tossed a handful of hot peppers into one batch. You can try sweet or hot peppers if you’d like. Another batch, I added 1 chopped medium onion. With the tomatoes so fresh, my favorite batch was simply with the roasted garlic that allowed the amazing tomato flavor to shine. Pick your favorite and enjoy!
p.s. Update – I just toasted some bread, slathered a tad of this on the bread, added some leftover prosciutto on top. Oh boy – give it a try. :o) (Would be great as part of an antipasto.)
Roasted Fresh Tomato Sauce (Sugo di Pomodori Arrostiti e Freschi)
Makes about 4 cups
1 large head of garlic
About 4 pounds tomatoes, cored and halved (I used my Roma and San Marzano paste tomatoes with a few others thrown in)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (optional)
A few peppers, seeded and chopped (hot or mild, optional)
About 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped (You, of course, can vary the herbs to suit your taste.)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Roast the garlic: Remove the papery skin from around the outside of the head of garlic. Leave the cloves intact. Slice off the top 1/4 of the garlic head to expose each clove. Dispose of the top 1/4 piece (in your compost bin, of course). Place the garlic in a small square of foil. Drizzle with olive oil. Use your fingers to be sure each yummy clove has a bath of olive oil. Close up the foil and place the packet in a small ovenproof dish (to prevent any oil spilling in your clean oven.) Place in hot oven.
Roast the tomatoes: In a 13X9 ovenproof dish, toss the tomatoes, onions and peppers (if you are using), 1/2 cup olive oil. Place in the oven along with the garlic bundles and roast for 30 mins. Remove the garlic from the oven. Give the tomatoes a stir and place back in oven. Roast for an 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the tomatoes begin to carmelize, skins blacken in spots and juices thicken. Give them a stir occasionally to allow the skins to blacken on more tomatoes.
Add the basil into the pan for about the last 15 mins.
Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Place tomatoes into a food processor or blender. Remove the garlic from the foil and squeeze the garlic cloves, now soft and oozy, into the processor. Process until coarsely pureed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy on pasta, bread, fish, chicken. Mmmmmm, heaven…..
Makes about 4 cups.