Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Back to Basics: Fresh Basil & Garlic Tomato Sauce

With all of the tomato plants in my little garden reminding me that I will soon be up to my eyeballs in little roma tomatoes, I keep thinking about the super simple sauce recipe I stumbled across recently, and I thought I would share it!

I can't take any credit for it, myself. I stumbled across it while watching Anthony Bourdaine's techniques episode. Its not as much a recipe as it is a method; a way to coax those fresh little fruits into something of the past, something returned to again and again. Its all at once simple, bursting with flavor and heart warming... and you know exactly what's in it. Maybe I'm getting a little melodramatic about tomato sauce - but it really is that good. Just ask my hubby. He has to watch me eat the stuff.

It all begins with a pretty big pile of Roma tomatoes (or other sauce tomatoes of your choice). You'll need more than you think you do - I always use at least 15 and end up with slightly over a standard jar of sauce.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, then quickly blanche the tomatoes by placing them in the boiling water for about 30 seconds - accuracy is not mandatory. Blanching the tomatoes is going to loosen the skin, making the much easier to peel. You'll want to look for the skin to start splitting on some of the tomatoes. Then you'll know they're ready to come out of the water.

Peeling will be quick work. The skin should be more or less falling off at this point. Peel all of the tomatoes and, with a knife, cut around the nubbin end that was attached to the plant. Then gently squeeze out any excess juice. Don't squeeze hard - you're not looking to turn them into tomato paste. Just try to eliminate the excess juice that is hanging out in the center of the tomato. I find that some have a lot while others don't have much at all. Place all of your tomatoes in a large pot on the stove. You want enough room to work in without making a mess, so don't skimp on pot size.  Discard the skins and excess juice.

Now is the time to mush. The first time I made this sauce, I used my potato masher and crushed by hand. It took quite a while, and by the end of it my arms were pretty tired.  The second time around, I got wise and pulled out my immersion blender. I highly recommend this option if you have one!  The blending is done in under a minute, and they're incredibly easy to clean.  If you don't have an immersion blender, an potato masher will work. Try coarsely chopping the tomatoes while you put them in the pot to get a head start on the squishing.

 If you've used the immersion blender, you will be left with a frothy tomato slurry. No worries. It will start to resemble something appetizing again soon. I promise. :)  Add a very liberal pinch of kosher salt, and turn the stove on to medium low heat. Let this simmer uncovered for at least 40 minutes. Again, accuracy is not required. If you'd like a thicker sauce, let it simmer for longer.

About 20 minutes before the sauce is done, you'll begin to make the basil & garlic infused olive oil. Grab some fresh basil and garlic. Be sure to have a guard cat on duty to watch out for basil thieves. Coarsely chop the basil and a hand full of garlic cloves. Again, season to your taste. It is very hard to go wrong with this, except to use too little!

Place a small sauce pan on the stove and fill with some olive oil. I use appx 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup for about 15 tomatoes. Place on VERY LOW heat, and add the garlic and basil. Add some freshly ground black pepper. Let this steep until you feel the sauce is ready. Its very important to keep the heat low - the garlic & basil will burn easily in this oil! This will infuse the olive oil with the flavors of the garlic and basil. You will be surprised how much of the flavor comes through in the final product.

When you feel your sauce is ready, its time to strain the olive oil into the sauce. I use a pretty low budget method and place a paper towel inside a colander. Pour the olive oil into the colander to strain out all of the basil & garlic bits. This method also makes clean up easy - just toss the paper towel.

Mix the oil into the sauce thoroughly - I use a whisk to get it all incorporated. Taste and see if the sauce needs any more salt (I usually do).

If you have old spaghetti jars, set them to wash in the dishwasher when you start cooking your sauce on the stove, and by the time the sauce is finished the jars will be ready to go. Pull them out of the dishwasher piping hot, and immediately fill with sauce - leaving a small amount of room at the top of the jar for air. Close tightly with the lid. If done correctly, the jar will seal and your tomato sauce will store for quite some time without going bad. The trick is to have very hot, sterile jars and lids, and to fill the jars while they are still hot. The cooling process is what causes the jars to seal.

And that, as they say, is that.  The process is very simple and yields such delicious results! Give it a try, and let me know what you think. :)

Side note: The cheese in the photo taken above is a delicious new cheese substitute my husband found at Whole Foods. Its called Daiya and is absolutely delicious. I have an allergy to cow's milk, so finding a decent cheese substitute has been a long and tasteless journey. For a long time I have used soy cheese, but find most of it contains the allergens in cow's milk I'm trying to stay away from in the first place!  Also, soy cheese leaves much to be desired in the texture department. If you're looking for a cheese alternative, give Daiya a try. It stretches, melts and tastes remarkably like cheese with no funky beany aftertaste! ... can I get a spokesperson's contract? ;)

1 comment:

Deige said...

Yumm! I plan to make this soon.