Stumbling upon mouth-watering culinary treasures... this time from my home.
Setting a table for one has become an experience... there are no magical dish fairies, the company is a little quiet and what really makes a portion size "acceptable"... no clue! However, in this moment of solitude, we're also encouraged to better appreciate the story of our ingredients journey to the plate. And this is something no restaurant can actually offer.
Which brings me to one of my favorite ingredients - the tomato. We all have stories to tell, and I assume for a lot of us, most happen over food. Mine do and while I haven't always been their biggest fan... it was love at first bite after experiencing this homemade tomato sauce. No, I'm not kidding!
With varying degrees of recipe complication, be it making lasagna from scratch or home-made ricotta and stuffed shells or pizza's made by fermenting my own dough (thank you Roberta's) and then various spins on spaghetti... for the last decade this sauce and by default all tomatoes, have taken my kitchen's centerstage... although these days I think they've just taken over.
Originally hailing from Italy, over the years I've added a healthy dose of our fabulous American spirit. Now, whether you're a cherry, grape, heirloom or Roma fan... the kind of tomato lover you are doesn't matter. However, they should be bursting with flavor, preferably organic and there should be no cans in sight!
Hope you enjoy!
1 ½ dry pints of organic grape* tomatoes, cut in half
1 dry pint of organic cherry* tomatoes, cut in half
1 organic red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 organic jalapeño or serrano pepper, finely chopped
4 to 5 cloves of organic garlic
1 cup filtered water (you may need more depending on your stove and climate)
generous amount of pink Himalayan sea salt
1 generous spoonful of chilies (warning: they're fire hot)
3-4 pinches of cayenne pepper flakes
few sprigs of fresh organic basil
sprinkling of nutritional yeast
organic cracked pepper
INSTRUCTIONS Over medium, heat a few generous tablespoons of EVOO, the garlic cloves and several cranks of salt in a non - stick fry pan. Allow the garlic to turn slightly brown then add all tomatoes and the red bell pepper. Of note: I squeeze the tomatoes as I'm transferring them.
Next, sauté the mixture while stirring constantly. After a few minutes, begin pressing on the tomatoes. Be careful, they might still "squirt". Also, be mindful of how quickly the tomato juice and olive oil evaporate. You want the tomatoes and red pepper mixture to simmer in their own liquid, therefore when the sauce begins looking "dry" add in a few generous teaspoons of water and a few more cranks of salt. Repeat this step until the tomatoes and red peppers have started to cook down (they've all turned soft). By the way, this is a great exercise in patience.
Once all ingredients have "cooked down", add the remaining olive oil, jalapeño or serrano pepper (and if you want it EXTRA spicy, the chilies) and another crank of salt. Let these newer additions to the mix also cook down, only adding water and salt when necessary to keep them simmering. Of note: the longer you cook the sauce, the longer the flavor builds.
When the mixture stops looking like individual ingredients (about 45 minutes later), remove from heat. Let slightly cool before serving or using or storing.
Prep time: around 5 to 10 minutes
Cook time: around 45 minutes
Generously Serves Two (or one)
(1) If you don't like chunky sauce, throw the sauce in a vitamix / blender.
(2) The flavor profile will continue to build, which is why I'm a fan of refrigerating this sauce overnight.
(3) I've made the mistake of NOT adding enough salt and also too much, please salt to taste. (4) I use nutritional yeast as Parmesan. Use that, basil, pepper and / or chili flakes to your liking.
*I prefer cherry, grape, heirloom or Roma, but the kind of tomatoes you use doesn't matter. I also use a blend.
**Story for another time, but personally I prefer olive oil from California. Not only am I supporting local establishments, but the olive oil is actually olive oil.
***The sauce pictured is served over spaghetti squash and paired with Bonterra organic wine. As for the conscious living part... the napkin is by Aquavireo and along with the glassware, decanter and plants, they're from Rolling Greens. The plate, bowl and fork are from Bambecco.
All photos by Cara