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Tomato Sauces

I. Late Summer Simplicity: Basic Fresh Tomato Sauce

This recipe works best with the richest late summer tomatoes -- you should to be able to smell the tomatoness from ten paces. Overripe is fine.

Raw, it is thin and delicate, superb on fresh noodles, fettuccine, omelets, rye toast, garlic bread, orange whole wheat pancakes, melted cheese sandwiches, etc.

Cooked, it is thicker and more flavorful, better able to stand up to strong competing flavors like eggplant or spinach and excellent in kugels, casseroles, pizza, spaghetti.

If the tomatoes aren't quite at the late summer fullness, make the cooked sauce, not the raw one.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs ripe tomatoes
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1-3 Tbs olive oil
  • optional: 1/2 tsp salt
  • optional: handful of fresh basil leaves
  • optional: 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Directions

A. Raw Food Processor Tomato Sauce

  • Using a food processor or blender, process the garlic cloves until they are all stuck to the sides of the container. Push them back down to the bottom.
  • Quarter the tomatoes, add them to the food processor and whirl for a minute or two until they are smooth and a little frothy.
  • Grind in a little pepper, add the olive oil, and if you like, add one or more of the optional ingredients.

B. Raw Peeled Tomato Sauce

If you don't have a food processor, or for a different texture, this is only slightly more complicated:

  • Peel the tomatoes: Boil a pot of water. Put the tomatoes in a colander and immerse the colander in the water, or just put the tomatoes directly in the boiling water. Leave for no more than 30 seconds-you want them to heat but not cook. Remove the colander (or the loose tomatoes) and immerse in cold water or run under cold water until the tomatoes are quite cool. Rub the tomatoes with your fingers and the skins should wrinkle and fall off.
  • Chop the peeled tomatoes (finely for a raw sauce, more roughly for a cooked one).
  • Chop or slice or press the garlic and add it to the tomatoes.
  • Grind in a little pepper, pour on olive oil, and if you like, add one of the optional ingredients, and you are done.

C. Cooked Fresh Tomato Sauce

For a thicker sauce or if the tomatoes aren't quite good enough for a raw one.

  • Heat 2 Tbs olive oil in a non-reactive pot.
  • Add one clove of garlic, chopped, sliced or pressed, and stir until it is very slightly colored.
  • Add your raw sauce, heat to a boil, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until it is the thickness you like. This concentrates the flavor as well as thickening the sauce.
  • If you are using basil, you can chop it and cook it with the sauce, or throw it in whole at the end, or both.

II. Canned Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs olive oil.
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed, chopped or sliced.
  • 28 oz can of Italian tomatoes, chopped roughly or pureed.
  • pepper.
  • Optional: handful basil leaves, chopped.
  • Optional: 1/4 lb mushrooms, sliced.
  • Optional: 2 Tbs chopped parsley.
  • Optional: 1/2 - 1 tsp Halabi or cayenne pepper.
  • Optional: 1/2 eggplant. To prepare eggplant:
    • peel and slice thickly (1/2 inch).
    • If you are using American eggplant, cover each slice with kosher salt and place in a colander for at least 1/2 hour. When the eggplant is covered with beads of bitter brown juice, rinse thoroughly and squeeze out any remaining juices between two layers of paper towels. Rinse very well to remove all the salt and pat dry, pressing to remove any remaining juices. The goal is to eliminate all bitterness without replacing it with saltiness. (Accordingly, this step is usually unnecessary with skinny young Italian or Chinese eggplants or, for that matter, skinny youngsters of any nationality).
    • Chop the slices into small dice.
    • Saute the small pieces in very hot olive oil--it will take more oil than you expect--until they are soft.
    • Eggplant is especially good matched with Kalamata or oil-cured black olives and capers.
  • Optional: Puttanesca Sauce. ½ c. chopped, pitted Kalamata olives; 2 Tbs capers; 3 chopped anchovies.
  • Optional: ½ - 1 c. sweet or sour cream.
  • Optional: Red or white wine or vodka. Vodka and cream work together well.
  • Simple is better. The optional ingredients are meant as alternatives, not to be used all at once.

Directions

  • Heat oil and saute garlic (and anchovies, if you are using them) slightly -- don't let it brown.
  • If you are using it, cook the eggplant now. You will need to add more oil. Alternatively, you can cook the eggplant separately and add it after the tomatoes.
  • If you are using them, add mushrooms and stir until they are beginning to release their juices.
  • Add chopped tomatoes (and, if using them, olives, capers, artichoke hearts, wine, vodka, etc).
  • Reduce heat and simmer until it thickens. If you are in a rush, 5 minutes will do, but 1 hour is better.
  • Add pepper, and if you like basil and/or parsley, and simmer a little longer.
  • If using cream, add it just before serving. Heat through but do not allow to boil.
  • Canned tomatoes are salty, so you probably will not want more salt, especially if the sauce is to be served with a salty cheese, such as parmesan or most mozzarella.
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