Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tomato Sauces and Squashes

I was driving down the road, and saw a beautiful 100 year old tree that has turned a spectacular yellow.


I drove a little further, and there was a brilliant red one.

And then I realized, if I go to the farmer's market this weekend (hopefully), I will see all apples and pumpkins. Gone are the peaches and the watermelon. Bring on the squash and some really good apples.

I could embrace fall. Slightly cooler, pretty colors, good food.

Except that somehow, we have skipped right from summer to winter.

Last week, we had the first frost. Fortunately I rescued my green tomatoes just the evening before, and cooked them up into the Green Tomato Pasta Toss that I mentioned last week.
It was tasty, but I made two little modifications, and after eating it, would make one other. So here is the new and improved recipe.

Green Tomato Pasta Toss 2
Green tomatoes
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Cheese (I actually used Asiago, although I'm sure the Feta in this original recipe would be delicious)

Saute the garlic and onion in the olive oil until the onion begins to turn translucent. Add the diced green tomatoes and continue to saute until they become soft. Some browning may occur, I think that makes it taste better. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the basil and cook until wilted.

Pour over cooked pasta and sprinkle on the cheese.

Obviously the unfortunate thing about this recipe is that I won't get to modify it and see how it really tastes with the basil added until I have a batch of green tomatoes next year. Hopefully next year it won't be as large of a batch.

Despite the fact that I do not like how cold it has turned so quickly (we are sitting at 43 degrees right now. And honestly I think it is about that in my office as well...), I cooked the spaghetti squash as an appropriate fall meal.

Preparing Spaghetti Squash
Pick a good one. The size will determine how many servings you get.
Cut it in half lengthwise (meaning, start at the stem and move down to the blossom end).
Scoop out all the seeds and gunk.
Place seed-side down in a 9x13 pan.
Fill the pan with an inch of water and bake at 350 for 45 min to 1 hour.

When the flesh of the squash is soft, scoop it out of the rind with a fork. This will separate the spaghetti squash's natural strands, giving you "spaghetti."
Serve hot with tomato sauce. Or pesto, or any other kind of sauce you like.

Homemade Tomato Sauce
It seems like this should be a recipe that I keep a secret forever. But I'll share anyway. I lived in Italy, and while I was there, I learned to make a really good tomato sauce. There are variations to this, and so I'll tell you some of them.

Olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
Salt and Pepper

Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan and add the minced garlic and diced onion. Saute until the onion turns translucent.
Add the chopped carrots and celery. Cook until they begin to soften, but try not to brown them.
Add the can of diced tomatoes and the can of tomato sauce. Add a little water too.
Stir and bring to a boil.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Add the chopped basil.
Stir and lower to a simmer.
Add the chopped zucchini and mushrooms.
Simmer and allow to reduce slightly. Taste and adjust spices.
Serve over pasta, spaghetti squash, rice, whatever.

You can omit all of the vegetables (carrots, celery, zucchini, and mushrooms).
You can add ground meat - beef or turkey. Just brown in the pan with the garlic and onion. When it is brown on the outside, add the sauce, because it will continue to cook.
If you prefer a smooth sauce, you can puree the sauce either in a blender, or with one of those cool "boat-motor" tools (that's what Emeril calls them).

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