Now that we’re in the peak of tomato season in the Bay, this is a good time to stock up on the good stuff for cheap — especially San Marzano tomatoes, usually found canned during the rest of the year. But when they’re $2 a pound, that means it’s cheaper (and tastier) than the canned variety.
There are two ways of doing this — oven dry and preserve them in olive oil, or make a basic sauce and freeze.
Naturally, both are pretty time consuming (6 hours and 2 hours, respectively). But since when did I cook anything that wasn’t?
Roasted tomato sauce
Adapted from a recipe by Alice Waters. Makes 1 quart.
- 2 lbs San Marzano tomatoes
- olive oil
- 1 whole head of garlic
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- dried or fresh thyme, to taste
- one small handful of basil, torn by hand
- salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Cut the tomatoes into quarters, removing the cone from the stem end of the tomatoes. Toss with about 3 TB of olive oil, just enough to coat.
Prepare the garlic bulb — cut off the top of the bulb, drizzle with a little olive oil, and then wrap in aluminum foil.
Put the tomatoes on a non-reactive (not aluminum) baking dish and roast uncovered for 30 minutes. Roast the garlic at the same time. Stir the tomatoes a few times in between to encourage even roasting. The tomatoes are done when the flesh is very soft and the skin separates easily from the flesh.
Heat 3 TB of olive oil in a non-reactive pot. Add the onions and cook over medium until completely soft, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, once the garlic has cooled slightly, remove a couple of cloves of the roasted garlic and roughly chop. I don’t remember how many cloves I added, but I didn’t add the whole thing because I didn’t want it to be garlic overload. I saved the rest of the garlic for other things.
Add the tomatoes and garlic to the onions, along with the herbs. Simmer, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, for about 30 to 45 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf and pass the sauce through a food mill. I don’t have a food mill, so I pushed it through a sieve in batches, leaving behind the tomato skins and seeds. Tedious, but worth it. I left about a cup of it in it’s original form so that there was a little chunk in the sauce (read: laziness).
Bring back to the heat gently and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Being that this is my second time going home to Sydney since I moved state-side, I’ve discovered that my parents take a rather casual approach to food (until I arrive). Mostly because my parents are now older, perhaps a little weary, and still pretty frugal.
Meals used to be a feat. My dad used to be a full-time carnivore. My mum was a Buddhist (in terms of eating habits) vegetarian. This meant that mum would still have to prepare these basically banquet style meat dishes that would take 3, 4 hours of her day — and it bothered me that she would subject herself to kitchen slavery and wouldn’t be able to enjoy it. And that my dad, as I notice him slowing down, would always prefer the cholesterol-laden, no-holding-back version of everything.
But it seems that this year, they’ve finally met in the middle. My dad eschews pork and beef for fish, and thinks that salad for lunch is perfectly normal (I still have a hard time accepting this). My mum is now eating fish, and the occasional bite of meat if we eat out. Both eat copious amounts of simply-prepared vegetables, and they’ve completely converted to brown rice.
Their dinner table doesn’t give me as many bragging rights as it used to — mum’s garlic-y Taiwanese basil chicken gave my boyfriends excuses to come over — but I’m happy that my parents, as different as they still are, can now sit at the dinner table and enjoy the same food.
I take it back with the bragging rights, actually — very few things beat freshly made soybean milk at breakfast.