There is something so satisfying about basic cooking. The kind of cooking that requires no fancy ingredients, complicated techniques, or any kind of stress. The kind of cooking that allows you to turn off your brain and let your hands do all the work. The kind of cooking that turns a bowl of excess tomatoes on the verge of spoiling into a vibrant sauce that beats anything you could ever buy in a grocery store.
I made this sauce last weekend while Butch was at priesthood session and I had the house to myself. Usually I spend this night hanging out with my mom and sisters or girlfriends, but this time around I was very much craving some alone time. I had every intention of relaxing (I even rented a movie from redbox), yet somehow I ended up in the kitchen making homemade cinnamon rolls (recipe will be posted shortly) and tomato sauce.
If I could recommend any sort of therapy for feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, it would be to spend some time in the kitchen peeling and chopping tomatoes while listening to the Pandora station of your choice (I picked The Arcade Fire), then curling up on the couch with a good book as the fruit of your labors simmers away on the stove. It’s a time-consuming process but a dead simple one that will make you feel surprisingly competent and useful. If you’re anything like me, you will feel a great sense of accomplishment in knowing that, although you may not have control over the abstract worries in your life, you can still work some magic with a tomato.
Fresh Tomato Sauce (From The Gourmet Cookbook)
This recipe is a very bare-bones sauce that lets the amazing flavor of fresh tomatoes dominate, but you can change it up by adding more vegetables (carrots, celery, onion) or seasonings (crushed red pepper, oregano) of your choice.
6 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled*
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
5 garlic gloves, thinly sliced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1) Core tomatoes and halve crosswise.
2) Working over a sieve set over a bowl, squeeze tomatoes gently to remove seeds.
Discard seeds and reserve juice.
3) Coarsely chop tomatoes.
4) Heat oil in a large pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until just golden (about 1 minute).
5) Add tomatoes, reserved juice, sugar, and salt.
6) Bring to a simmer and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to your liking (mine took about an hour).
7) Stir in basil and salt to taste.
*The easiest way to peel tomatoes is by blanching them. Make an “X” with a paring knife in the skin on the bottom of each tomato, then lower them with a slotted spoon into a pot of boiling water for about ten seconds. Plunge into a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process, then peel off the skin at the “X” (it should slide right off).