Cherry Tomato Love

 
When you grow cherry tomatoes in the garden, very few ever seem to make it into the kitchen for a meal, so tempting are they to eat straight from the bush. Somehow, though, when I buy them at the farmers’ market, I have a little better luck, and so I’ve been enjoying some great meals with cherry tomatoes as the star. 
 
One favorite dish is a cherry tomato salad that doubles as an uncooked “sauce” for pasta. I put sauce in quotes because this really is more salad than fluid sauce.  I like adding wild arugula, too, Puglia style. Puglia is the region of Italy in the heel of the boot, where traditionally wild greens have been used extensively in everyday cooking. Wild arugula is peppery, with deep-cut leaves, and it’s now possible to buy cultivated wild arugula (a bit of a strange concept I admit). I especially like a local organic one from Satur Farms, grown on the North Fork of Long Island by Paulette Satur and her husband Eberhard Müller, former chef of Le Bernardin and Lutèce. (I buy it at Whole Foods or FreshDirect.)
 
 
I will be eating a plate of this summer pasta tonight, in preparation for tomorrow’s NYC Century Bike Ride—at least that’s my excuse. Too bad the ride isn’t through Puglia, where we could pick our own arugula and learn to make homemade pasta along the way. (Yes, such a cycling tour exists!)
 

Comments

Tomato Sauce

At this time of year all over Toronto, a huge harvest of Roma tomatoes hits the streets. In all the Mediterranean neighbourhoods, every corner store has bushels and bushels (and bushels) of ripe, beautiful Roma tomatoes, filling the sidewalks and ready for processing. Having done a bit of this myself I can only marvel that people drive away with 2 or 3 bushels at a time. That's factory work! My modest efforts, however, still provide me with a winter's worth of great tasting pasta with tomato sauce. I learned how to make the sauce from a Sicilian friend while on holiday in London, not the likeliest place to discover these things. It's more a method than a recipe and has served me well over the years.

Buy a small amount of tomatoes (20 to 30, depending on size). The idea is to avoid scaring yourself into inaction. Wash them and with a very sharp knife, dice them finely (1/4" or so). This makes it unnecessary to peel the tomatoes. Place them in a large pot and heat as slowly as possible, stirring until enough juice is released. Add finely chopped garlic, fresh basil, salt and pepper to taste. Add a finely chopped carrot or two (1/8" cubes) for taste and colour. Add a very generous dollop of your best olive oil. Stir gently and enjoy the aroma while cooking for a couple of hours at an extremely low temperature. Adjust the seasoning, perhaps adding a pinch of sugar if it tastes too sour.

After cooling I put them in small containers (like a single serve yogourt container) and freeze them. Perfect Friday night dinner! Thaw the sauce in a microwave, serve over pasta and enjoy with spinach or a salad. Fresh, pure and simple.

Each year I make 2 or 3 small batches within several weeks, partly not to get intimidated by the work and partly to vary the taste slightly. It's easy and very rewarding, both during the cooking and during the eating.

John

I'm Inspired!

You make this sound so easy. Now all I have to do is locate a good source of local Roma tomatoes! I went out to an Italian section of Brooklyn and found Romas—from Mexico. But to compensate, I did find an amazing Sicilian pastry shop with the best cannoli I've ever tasted. And, as my family knows, I have very high standards. — Mediterraneanista