Thursday, August 6, 2009

La cena era deliziosa....

....supposedly that means "the meal was delicious" in Italian. Thanks WikiAnswers!

Whether that's right or not, it very accurately describes the meal my husband and I just ate. Ever since we got married my husband has wanted to grow herbs and tomatoes. And everytime he asked, I wasn't really interested...until this summer. We bought one tomato plant from a local nursery, Sherwood's Forest, along with basil, mint, and rosemary plants. We also picked up a few bell pepper plants at Soulard Farmer's Market but those are still growing and maturing so we haven't gotten to enjoy them yet. Anyway, for the most part the tomatoes have ripened one-by-one and we have sliced them for sandwiches or diced them to put on tacos or shared them with our parents.

Twice now, however, several of them have ripened at once, giving me the idea to try to make tomato sauce from scratch. The first time I did extensive research on the topic and combined two or three different recipes and produced a very small batch (we only had 7 or 8 small tomatoes that time around) of quite tasty tomato sauce. This time, 15 tomatoes of varying size came ripe all at once (I pureed these...see recipe below), I purchased 2 more large homegrown tomatoes from Schnucks (I diced these...see recipe below), and decided to go for it and use what I learned from making the sauce the first time along with what I wanted to add, to create my very own recipe. Here it is, in all its's time consuming so be ready to set aside an afternoon but note that the bulk of the time it's just simmering so you can get plenty of other things done around the house while the aroma wafts around. :)

Lauren's Garden Vegetable Tomato Sauce

10-12 medium ripe tomatoes
1 carrot, sliced
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 small yellow squash, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
2 Tbls. evoo
2 Tbls. butter (or margarine)
1 Tbls. minced garlic
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/4 c. fresh basil, chopped
1/2 tsp. Italian Seasoning
2 stalks celery
1--6oz. can tomato paste
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. oregano

1. In a large stock pot, boil enough water to submerge all of your tomatoes at once. Have ready a large bowl of ice water. When water boils, add tomatoes. Using a slotted spoon, remove tomatoes from boiling water when skin splits and place in ice water bath to cool. (note: some tomatoes will split almost instantaneously while others will take a couple minutes. I usually end up with a rogue tomato that just won't split so I just drop it in the ice water bath and use a sharp knife to puncture the skin before peeling.) Peel tomatoes and squeeze to remove seeds. Dice 2 tomatoes and set aside. Dice remaining tomatoes and place in blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

2. In a large stock pot, combine evoo, butter, onion, garlic, carrot, zucchini, squash, peppers, and mushrooms and saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add tomato puree, diced tomatoes, basil, Italian seasoning, and celery stalks (might have to cut them in half to make them fit). Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer 2 hours.
Here's what it looked like before it simmered but after all ingredients had been added.

3. After 2 hours, you have a choice to chunky do you like your sauce?
Here it is at the 2 hour mark. I like mine pseudo-chunky so I put a cup or so in the food processor and gave it a whirl. It's ready for 2 more hours of simmering!

a. Super Chunky: Stir in tomato paste, pepper, and oregano, cover, and simmer for an additional 2 hours.

b. Pseudo-Chunky: Scoop out a cup or so of sauce and blend until smooth in blender or food processor. Return to pot; stir in tomato paste, pepper, and oregano, cover, and simmer for an additional 2 hours.

c. Smooth: Remove celery stalks and pour all sauce into blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Return to pot and put celery stalks back in; stir in tomato paste, pepper, and oregano, cover, and simmer for an additional 2 hours.

4. Discard celery stalks (they have probably disintigrated a little bit so you may have to go on a celery hunt) and serve over your favorite pasta!

Tom and I purchased some tomato basil Amish pasta from the Eckert's store when we were there peach picking a few weeks ago and I decided to use it tonight with the sauce...wowee...another delicious choice! Had some three cheese Italian rolls and a nice salad too. Great dinner tonight! Best part about it, I was able to make a bigger batch of sauce than last time so we have leftovers!!!

So what have we learned from this experience? Next year I will be purchasing more than one tomato plant! :)

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