Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tomatoes All The Time

We’re having tomatoes all the time right now. It’s not just me and my ingredient-bender ways (like my non-stop fennel frenzy in May. Speaking of fennel, fennel and I need to get reacquainted). Well, maybe it is, a little- tomatoes aren’t the only thing in season right now. But they are ridiculously good right now. Even my pathetic tomato plants have produced some insanely good specimens, and the Pacific Northwest is not very friendly to tomato plants. Tomatoes don’t love a mild climate (and it has been mild here this summer, with a very few exceptions). They like it plenty hot, and out here, without any genuine heat, you need to pay attention to your tomato plants to get them to thrive, and even then… it doesn’t always work out. Odds are good that your plants will get blight at some point or other and have to be yanked out so they don't sicken the rest of the plants. Mine are spindly, mottled and generally pretty sickly looking (I would show a picture, but my camera is being extremely diva-like right now and refusing to work properly). But again, they are producing wonderful fruit.
So, Friday: tabbouleh. Saturday: roasted squid with breadcrumbs (it was my first time making squid at home. It’s another food that falls into the “looks like snot” category. But it worked out well), and a tomato sheep cheese olive salad (with a crazy-good Sally Jackson cheese, a semi-local cheese maker who started in on making interesting cheeses well before it had any cachet). Effectively, as a salad, it provided variation from Caprese salads, which we’ve been digging into regularly, with a bufala mozzarella from California (Curly pronounced it delicious... but not as good as Fairburn Farm's, largely because almost anything she eats gets compared to Fairburn Farm, and is lucky to come in second place). Sunday: a green salad with roasted cherry tomatoes and pancetta (and an interesting corn soup). Monday: well, soo-prize, soo-prize, I’m going to digress too much to use parentheses. On Friday, I convinced my mom to try preserving roast tomatoes, courtesy of the recipe on Figs Olives Wine (thank you!). I had my mom do it because turning the oven on in my house for 4-6 hours would have made it a stifling little hellhole (at least… it would if the weather was acting like August instead of bloody MARCH), whereas she has air conditioning (as well as an oven that is less than 40 years old) and can bake and roast with impunity on the hottest of days. I roast tomatoes semi-regularly, but haven’t tried keeping them for more than a few days, and I continue to be fascinated and nervous of preserved… stuff. How lame is it that because my house heats up and I get nervous of giving everyone botulism that I got my mom to do it for me? Pretty lame. But the tomatoes: not lame at all. Fantastic.

I made a cross between an aglio olio and a puttanesca sauce, and it was deeply satisfying, thanks, largely, to the tremendously good roasted tomatoes (the kids had their pasta tossed with leftover pancetta from the night before, butter and parmesan. Curly does not go for tomatoes when they’re cooked, and my boy feels that any vegetable that’s not a potato is not something to be eaten willingly). Seriously, try the recipe (the roasted tomatoes, not what I’ve done with it). It’s been chilly and damp here for a few days, so I may actually make them at home.

Tonight I think we’ll toss some tomatoes with thinly sliced fennel (see? getting back too-geth-aah with the fennel), and serve it alongside a Spanish tortilla with chorizo.

Curly is happy as a clam, since she likes tomatoes (at least raw ones), and if I don’t beat her to it (not that I would try and pip a five-year-old, except... I would), will eat all of the ripe tomatoes off the plants. The picture below is of the preserved tomatoes, a tomato vinegar that I thought looked interesting (and is... okay, but not revelatory or amazing or likely to be purchased a second time), a big yellow tomato from Sosio's, and a bunch of cherry tomatoes from my garden. Which Curly and my mom spotted and devoured in pretty short order.

My boy is looking forward to the end of tomato season. Poor kid. He’s got a way to go.

So, this is my first go at actually discussing how I cooked something, so bear with me:
I made two pounds of pasta because I was cooking for more than 4 people, and my husband has a fondness for taking leftover pasta as lunch the next day.

Sort of-Puttanesca Sauce with Roasted Preserved Tomatoes

2 lbs pasta
¾ - 1 Mason jar roast preserved tomatoes (1-2 cups?), with the basil, tomatoes very coarsely chopped. Don't bother chopping the basil.
½ - 1 head garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp or more chili flakes, depending on taste
Olive oil, a couple of glugs (3 Tablespoons or so, possibly a little less, as the tomatoes are well-coated in oil)
3-8 anchovies, coarsely chopped
10-25 black olives (if you used tiny nicoise olives, as I did, you'll be on the high end of that number, but you'll need less if they’re big), pitted and, if necessary, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon capers

Optional: grated parmesan. My folks liked this better with parmesan; I tried this both ways and liked it better without, but it's a matter of opinion. Toasted, lightly seasoned bread crumbs would make a tasty, and fairly traditional, topping, too.

1) While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil on medium heat in sauté pan. Add the garlic. Cook until the garlic is starting to turn color at edges.

2) Add chili flakes, stir in briefly.

3) Add anchovies, and remove from heat while mashing anchovies in until they melt. To be honest, I often forget to remove the pan from heat while I’m melting in anchovies. But I forget lots of things. Stir for a minute or two.

4) Add the tomatoes, heat them through, add capers and olives, cook until they’ve warmed up, remove from heat.

5) Toss with cooked pasta, which you'll remember to drain and all that. Eat, and remember to say thank you to Amanda of Figs Olives Wine for the preserved tomato recipe. Mmmm.


Figs Olives Wine said...

I'm so glad you're enjoying the tomatoes Meg! It all sounds delicious.

Meg said...

Well, thanks for posting the recipe. It's a really common-sense (a quality I don't exactly have in spades) thing to do with slow roasted tomatoes, but unless I'd seen it on your blog, it would never have occurred to me. I love dishes like those tomatoes: brilliant, but simple.