Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Tomato heaven.



It is late. Or early, depending on how you look at it. Since I started writing my thesis a few months ago I just cannot figure out how to convince my brain to shut off at night. Mike and I just returned from a late night, rainy promenade on the sea wall, just moments from our doorstep. No matter the weather, time of day (or night) or season, Vancouver is a beautiful place to be. The water was calm, boats rested in the middle of the bay, raindrops dimpled the water's glassy surface. Now that I am nearing the end of my "PhD journey" I am trying to adjust to the thought that I may have to move on from this city soon, but not just yet.

Returning to our home we were welcomed by the overwhelming heat of our cozy apartment; the heat usually the result of the oven having been on all evening. Today I checked "use up the pile of tomatoes going past their prime on the counter" off of my to do list, by putting them into a homemade tomato sauce. Another perk of living in Vancouver, the availability of multitudes of high quality ingredients like rainbow colors of fresh, perfectly ripe tomatoes. It did not take much effort to turn these beauties into a bright red, fresh tasting, and delicious tomato sauce.


Making this sauce required no skills really. Actually, while I was making it, I was laughing at myself and my lack of finesse in the kitchen. Once my tomatoes had been heated through, I scooped the large chunks of tomatoes out of the pan, threw them into a food processor scalding hot and turned it on, juice splashing up through the seams and vents. I felt like maybe there was a safer, less messy way to proceed but still, I enjoyed every minute of it.

The book Slow Food Nation is convincing me of the importance of connecting with food in its most basic forms. Apparently (obviously) we are habituated to eating things that are several times removed from the original places and products they come from; especially when eating foods made with preservatives and additives for example. Our consumption of these pre-prepared and packaged foods desensitizes us to the deliciousness of natural flavors. I know I am hugely guilty of this as I am always adding so many seasonings and salt and sugar to my dishes looking for more and more flavour when what I should be doing is enjoying the main ingredients of the dishes. Tomatoes were the stars of the show today and I didn't want to overpower them.

I ordered two cookbooks last night that I am really excited about. The first is by Alice Waters, a slow food proponent who has a nice cookbook about very basic cooking techniques using really basic ingredients. Since I have never learned these techniques officially I thought a kitchen companion like this would be nice. It has fundamental recipes like: washing lettuce, poaching eggs, seasoning a salad etc. Also, I finally gave in and bought Heidi Swanson's, Super Natural Everyday. I have been putting this off because I'm scared that once I look at her cookbook I'll never feel like coming up with my own recipe ideas again. But she takes amazing food photographs, her recipes are simply amazing and she writes so beautifully - I couldn't resist.



Tomato sauce 

Ingredients
  • 10 - 12 tomatoes
  • Pot boiling water
  • Ice water bath
  • 1 tbsp basil-infused olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp or less hot chili flakes
  • 1 tbsp honey (agave or maple syrup for vegans)
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1/8 cup basil leaves - chopped
Directions
  1. Wrap garlic cloves in tinfoil and place in a hot oven ~350 - 400F - roast about 30 minutes or longer. 
  2. Bring a pot of water to boil and prepare an ice bath. 
  3. Cut shallow crosses into the tops of the tomatoes and drop into boiling water for 30 - 60 seconds depending on the size of the tomato. You will see the skin just start to curl where you sliced. 
  4. Use tongs to remove tomatoes from hot water, and add directly to ice-water.
  5. Remove tomatoes from the ice bath and peel off the skin.
  6. Roughly chop tomatoes and toss in a colander to remove some of the seeds. I do not mind seeds so I do not put too much effort into this, but rinsing, shaking, cutting into smaller pieces helps with this if they bother you. Or you can use your fingers to dig out some of the seeds.
  7. Blend the tomatoes roughly in a food processor.
  8. Gently warm basil-infused or regular olive oil in a large, deep pan. 
  9. Add the blended tomatoes to the pan.
  10. Once the tomato sauce starts to simmer add the remaining ingredients (except the basil). Using my hands I squeezed the garlic out of its wrapping so that my sauce had hefty, roasted garlic chunks floating about. 
  11. Simmer for about 30 minutes to an hour. 
  12. When the sauce is starting to reach the desired consistency adjust to taste with sea salt and honey and stir in fresh basil leaves.
  13. Remove from heat and store in fridge, up to a few days, until ready to use.

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