Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tomato Sauce With Fresh Plum Tomatoes and What I Did With It

7 or more plum tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp marjoram
1/2 cup chopped onion
Salt and pepper to taste

Blanch, peel and core tomatoes. Heat a sauce pan over medium high heat, brown the onions and garlic. Add the tomatoes and crush them. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes to 2 hours or more, depending on how many tomatoes you have and how fresh tasting you want the sauce. Less time=more fresh tomato flavor. If your herbs are fresh add them at the end and triple the measurements, if they are dried add them when you start to simmer. Add salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste. If you want your sauce chunky, leave it as is. If you want it medium mash it with a potato masher. If you want it smooth use a wand mixer or blender/food processor.


Ok, the recipe above isn't anything like exact. Not even a little bit. It is just a guideline. The base seven tomatoes I said? That's just how many I had. I'm also not 100% sure how much garlic I used since I cooked three cloves whole and then mashed it into a paste, but didn't use all the paste. Also note I didn't put any sweeteners in the sauce. I found that I didn't need them since the fresh tomatoes are plenty sweet. You might want some. If so, I continue to recommend molasses. I also didn't use any wine or balsamic vinegar. I didn't have wine, or else I would have used some. In this size a batch probably just a couple tablespoons of it would be fine. Maybe just one teaspoon of balsamic. But more tomatoes, more stuff. This is just to tell you how to make sauce from fresh tomatoes and let you know how I seasoned it, you can do it however your heart desires. So, lets get going.

First off, you need fresh plum tomatoes. I got these from my wonderful sister in law who bought them at a local farm. They were seconds there, which means they are better than the best tomatoes you can get at your average grocery store. Plum, or Roma, tomatoes are best for sauce because they aren't too liquidy nor are they, frankly, too good for sauce. You don't really want to spend 5 bucks a pop for heirloom tomatoes and then boil them down to goo. Well, I don't anyway. If you want to, hey, they're your tomatoes. I use plum. So we want to blanch the tomatoes. What is blanching you ask? It's where you boil the tomatoes for a minute or so, just enough to cook the very outer layer. Then you take them out and drop them in cold water to stop the cooking. This lets the skins come off nice and easy, leaving a skinless fruit behind. Then you just pop out the tough core and you are good to go. I usually do them one at a time, but I am kind of anal like that, you do whatever works best for you. I have had the best luck with slicing a very, very shallow slash on two opposite sides of the skin before I boil them. This not only makes it easier to pull the skin off, but it also lets you know when they are ready to come out because the slices start opening up. Once they have sat in the cold water for a minute or two you pull them out and the skin should just slide right off. Cut out the core and you have tomatoes ready for cooking. Now you can just chop them up and if you want a sauce that tastes like fresh tomatoes that is what I recommend you do. Then you brown up your aromatics (garlic, onion, etc) and toss in the chopped tomatoes, let them cook for just a couple minutes and it's done. I, however, am going to do a slow sauce since I don't really like fresh tomatoes. Call me crazy. Many people do. Heh. But, even when you cook them for a long time there is a big difference in flavor with fresh tomato sauce versus one made with canned. First I am browning up the onions over medium high heat. I am doing them really dark this time, I want a nice sweet flavor from them. Then I am tossing in halved (because I needed to take out the shoot...) garlic cloves and letting them get some browning. Then I am reducing the heat to low and I'm putting in my tomatoes, whole. Now I just go at them with my spoon. I'm not too worried about getting them small, they will break down as they cook. But I want them to release their juices so nothing burns. Now you just let them simmer for, oh, an hour or two. It depends on how many you have. You don't want them to run out of liquid, but a nice concentrated flavor is the goal. Don't cover them! You want reduction, otherwise you will have a watery sauce. When the garlic is really soft, pull it out, mash it into a paste and put it back in. Once the watery liquid is mostly gone and the tomatoes have broken down, that's it, sauce! You can leave it as is if you want it chunky like this. Or you can hit it with a wand mixer like I do since I like a smooth sauce. But what do you do with it, you ask? Well, here is what I did. NOTE: This is where the "vegetarian" label stops being relevant. Rebecca, you don't care about it past this point. Unless you use mushrooms or tofu instead of ground beef...

Ok, I found that the seven tomatoes I had only made about a cup and a half or so of sauce. That's not really enough for a decent sized recipe. But, it is a good start. So first I started a pot of water for pasta, I wound up cooking about a half pound. Well, almost cooking. You want it not quite finished so you can finish it in the sauce. Then I browned up some ground beef. I tend to get large packages of ground beef and then freeze it in various sized chunks. I often work with it frozen, which can be a bit of a challenge. Here is the best method I have come up with for getting nicely browned meat from frozen ground beef. First, preheat your skillet. This is key. Add a little oil, I typically use olive but this time I'm using bacon grease since I have some. Mmmm, bacon grease. Now toss the beef in and let it sit for a couple minutes. Now flip it over ( yes, this picture was taken halfway through the process, but hopefully it gets the idea across...) and scrape the browned, thawed upper layer of beef off and push it to the side of the pan. Repeat. You will wear away the chunk of frozen meat in thin layers and build up fond at the same time. Eventually you will be left with just a thin slice of mostly thawed ground beef that you can break into chunks, along with all the strips that have been finishing cooking off to the side. Break it up into as small pieces as you like. At this point I also sprinkled some oregano on too. Maybe a 1/4 teaspoon or so. Now you will want to deglaze the pan. I'm using a nice big shot of vodka. Hey, I don't have any wine. Besides, I'm adding cream later, it's a classic combination! Why do you want to know why I have vodka and not wine? Pfft, look, do you want this recipe or not? Ok? Can we continue? All right then. Once it's deglazed add the tomato sauce. Bring it to a simmer, then add some cream. If you are watching calories you can use milk here, but the sauce won't be as rich.How much? Oh, maybe a half a cup. I just kinda poured a bunch in. Stir it around and let it simmer some more. I then added a little fresh basil, since I had some on hand. Now add the almost cooked, drained pasta. Stir it around and let it cook for just a minute or so. Put it in a bowl, garnish with some Romano and eat it. It's some good stuff there.


Michele said...

Hey Bob! You're sauce looks great! YUMO!

Bob said...

Hi, Michele! Thanks, it came out pretty tasty, there weren't even any leftovers. Which is kinda too bad, I was looking forward to some for lunch. Oh well, I'm not crying real tears. :)

kaje said...

Thanks for the props! I'm hitting the farm again tomorrow - do you want me to grab you a bucket-o-seconds if they have them again? We used our portion of the last bunch to make your sausages in tomato cream sauce recipe. It was super yummy, so I convinced my sweetie to make it again a few nights later with the extra sauce. :)

The Brutal Gourmet said...

When MB came home with another bin of tomatoes, we decided to go get one of these food mills. I cannot recommend it enough. I washed and quartered the tomatoes, cooked them with onions, garlic and oregano (just a little -- this is ingredient sauce to do more with later) and when it was done I passed it through the medium plate on the mill. Skin, cores and seeds get left behind, and I ended up with about ten cups of nice smooth sauce. I handled it like I do stock, freezing it into 1 or 1/2 cup measures in plastic cups so this winter I will be able to pull out fresh tomato sauce at need. Yay!

Bob said...

Nice, I will have to check that out. I don't mind seeds, but I would prefer to not have them in there.

The Brutal Gourmet said...

When I did the roasted tomato sauce I cleaned them completely. The oven temperature is much higher than a simmer, and I did not want the seeds to leech bitterness into the tomatoes. Also, since the roasting process is mainly to try the tomatoes out you really want to get the insides out. Even then the food mill was great for getting the skins out. I never bother blanching my tomatoes.


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