August 15, 2009

Today started as most Saturday mornings do, with a trip to the small, charming farmers market in the neighborhood. I’ve shopped there every Saturday for years, and have developed a nice relationship with the vendors. I look forward to Betsy’s lambing season, the week Susan has currants and gooseberries (OMG, Amanda Hesser’s Currant/Goosberry tart from The Cook and The Gardener. so fabulous.), yellow haricot verts from Haroun.

Haroun had terrible news this morning – his entire San Marzano crop was hit with the blight. This is the first report I’ve heard at the market, but could also be the beginning in this part of the country. We talked about it for awhile – his practices are so clean; it’s evident in the produce he offers. He started all his plants from seed in sterilized soil. He said he had blisters on the leaves one day, and mushy fruit the next. I can’t imagine watching all that work fail. Heartbreaking.

It was heartbreaking to me, as well. I had plans for those tomatoes of his. I always oven roast 8-10 lbs of romas, then freeze them. In the winter, they make great additions to everything from white bean dip to lentil soup.

I also like to have the freezer packed with 25 recipes (50 lbs fresh tomatoes) of Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce #3. This is an exquisite simple sauce that freezes beautifully in quart sized bags, and provides a perfect quick dinner all winter long. I could write about it all day, but Molly Wizenberg’s Ode to Marcella is perfection.

Once I absorbed the news from Haroun, I went to check on Brett’s tomato crop. He had lots of cherry types, some early girls, romas, and three or four varieties of heirloom. A very pretty table. He was offering a big box of tomatoes (15-20 lbs?) for sauce at a good price, and I was seduced.

Do I even need to say how much I did not need another project before going to the beach Friday?

Drove home and started the roasting process – sliced each tomato lengthwise, placed them skin side down on parchment on a baking sheet, drizzled liberally with olive oil, sprinkled with 1.5 tsp Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper and popped them in a 225 oven for six hours, or until carmelized on the edges. The amount of time varies with the moisture in the tomato.

I thought I would make some fettucine with oat flour, and to turn a couple of pounds of the tomatoes into Marcella’s recipe for dinner. That, some crispy kale – perfection!

And then, I went off to a late afternoon showing of Spread (BTW, not a great movie. I predict straight to video.) Of course, by the time I got home, I had no interest in making any pasta, or fiddling with more tomatoes. Found some boxed fettucine. And took a look at the four pans of tomatoes that had been roasting for three hours – half the necessary time.

Necessity (and Laziness?) being the Mother of Invention, I took one half-roasted pan of tomatoes, and riffed on Marcella’s recipe for sauce. So yummy! If you’ve eaten Sauce #3, and you know how it makes you want to lick the inside of the pot, you really must try this.

Oven Roasted Tomato (Sauce Number Four?)

2 lbs. tomatoes, oven roasted (as described above)
Puree through the food mill into a medium saucepan
Add one onion, halved
3 Tbls. butter
Cook at a slow simmer for 25 min. Remove onion halves.
Toss with fettucine cooked al dente, serve with shaved parmesian and minced fresh basil.

As for the crispy kale? Well, I’ll just make that tomorrow.

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