Tomato News

cherry tomatoes2

This is an unusual tomato year for me. My cherry tomatoes from last year seeded themselves and took off right away. I didn’t even have to plant them! And the few bigger tomato plants I put in haven’t borne much fruit. So I’ve got dish-fulls of the little guys and just a few regular tomatoes from the neighbor. Not enough to can but too many to eat outright.

So I went online in search of what to do with the cherry tomatoes. Seems some people just wash them and plop them in freezer bags for later. Some roast them in the oven to dry them. I might try both of those methods later on.

For now, I found a recipe by Mario Batali on Serious Eats and was rather surprised by the rave reviews. I DO make marinara sauce but it involves skinning the tomatoes at some point and that is a messy job. But this specifically says you can use the cherry tomatoes and you don’t have to peel them! You don’t even have to cook them very long! It is a really fresh sauce.

I’ve tried fresh sauce with regular tomatoes before and didn’t much care for the skins in the sauce. But this recipe has enough good feedback that I’m game. It is Spaghetti al Pomodoro, intended to be a lighter dish with all fresh ingredients.

First I’ll give you Mario’s recipe as written…

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili flakes
  • 2 pints of Sungold Cherry tomatoes (or 3 cups of chopped fresh tomatoes and their juices)
  • 20 leaves fresh basil, cut into fine slivers (chiffonade)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino

Procedures

  1. It is even easier than it reads. Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a spaghetti pot, and add 2 tablespoons salt. Heat a 10- to 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat, add the oil and garlic, and cook until light golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the chili flakes and the tomatoes, and cook over medium heat, stirring to keep the garlic from cooking any browner until the tomatoes just start to burst or deflate, about 5 minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat, and set aside. Drop the spaghetti into the boiling water, and cook until 1 minute less than the package instructions call for. Drain and toss in the pan with the tomatoes; place the pan over high heat and toss to mix well, about 45 seconds.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat, add the cheese, then the basil, and toss well to mix. Then pour into a heated bowl, and serve immediately.

Now me… I’m pretty loose with directions and I just wanted to use what I had on hand.

Cherry tomatoes… check.

Basil… went out to my mini-garden and picked a few leaves and chopped them… check.basil2

Garlic… instead of slicing, I minced a couple cloves up fine since I don’t like big pieces of garlic in my food… check.

Red pepper flakes… got ‘em in the cupboard… check.

Pecorino? Nah. Never have it. It is a pretty strong cheese. When I was in Italy for a few months it is the main cheese they eat. It ranges from ordinary-strong to flat-out stinky-crazy strong! I never got used to it. So I’ll use what I have on hand… shredded parmesan and a bit of finely shredded mozzarella. Check.

And here’s a couple tips for you concerning the other ingredients…

As for olive oil and dry pasta, I rarely buy those at the grocery. I have a source I like much better and it isn’t what you’d expect. One of my very favorite stores is Home Goods (part of the TJ Maxx family) and I have to go there once a month just for a window shopping fix. Home dec is my thing but I can’t bring home everything I love from Home Goods. However, I can go down their gourmet food aisle and have a hey-day!

Folks, this place is a treasure! When I first saw these “grocery items” in a store like this, I was a bit afraid of them. Who buys food in a retail store? But I got brave enough to try it and now it is one of my go-to places for good stuff. This is where I buy pasta from Italy, olive oil from Spain and tea from England. Hey this store brings the world to you and the items are not in a gourmet market at three times the price! You never know exactly what they’ll have, but it will be good.

Check out the jarred olives, the canned paprika and the real-deal shortbread cookies. I always have a box or two of “designer” cookies in my cupboard to serve with tea if a friend drops in. It is so impressive – and delicious! And if you want to take a “hostess gift” or a “just because” gift to a friend, pick up one of these items. Then go back a few aisles and get a gift bag. You’re all set! (You can thank me later!)

I recently visited my dad and stepmother and I hate to go anywhere empty-handed, so I picked up a lovely tin of crispy chocolate chip cookies from Denmark at Home Goods. I know my dad and his wife like something sweet with their morning coffee. And sure enough, when I came out the next morning, they had eaten half the tin!

“Did you know those cookies are from Denmark?” asked my dad. “But, of course!” I replied. “Only the best for you!” Now aren’t I just the clever one!

Anyway… back to the Spaghetti al Pomodoro

I truly am surprised I’ve never tried this before because I am a NUT for anything Italian. I collect books on Italian cooking and I’ve spent YEARS perfecting my pizza recipe. So it was time to use the cherry tomatoes and here’s what I did…

First I put a saucepan of water on to boil. Threw in a good amount of salt. This is necessary to get the pasta the right flavor.

While the water came to a boil I washed off the cherry tomatoes and chopped them up. I also minced the garlic and fresh basil.

egg pasta2This is the pasta I had on hand… it is an egg pasta from Italy formed into little “nests” about the size of the palm of your hand. It is VERY thin and will cook in no time. (I used two of them.)

I heated up a larger, shallow saucepan and poured in some olive oil. Just a couple swirls… I don’t measure. Then added the garlic and stirred and stirred so it wouldn’t burn. In went a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir a little more.

Pour in the chopped tomatoes and continue to stir. This doesn’t take long at all since it is a fresh sauce. And since I’m a rebel in the kitchen, I added a pinch of salt, a grind of pepper (you do use a pepper mill, don’t you?) and a teaspoon or so of sugar to combat the acidity. Keep stirring. Then I got out the potato masher and gave it all a good stomping.

By now the pasta was done. This really thin pasta cooks fast, but if you are using any other pasta, cook it a bit less than the package says. You want it “almost done” when you put it in the sauce to finish cooking.

And here’s another secret of mine… I don’t drain pasta. It’s an extra wasted step.

cooking spiderAll you need to do is use your “spider” to scoop the pasta out of the water and into the hot pan of sauce. The little bit of starchy water that clings to the pasta thins the sauce out just right. Cook the whole mess for another minute or so to get the flavor of the sauce into the pasta. (Honestly, you HAVE to finish cooking the pasta IN the sauce or it just isn’t right!)

Finally, pour it all into a serving dish and toss with the basil. Add your cheeses and bring it up to your nose for a big sniff. Close your eyes and swoon. That first bite is going to be as yummy as it smells!

I have to tell you… this recipe was a revelation to me. It is quick and easy and fresh and tasty. The red pepper flakes gave it just a bit of kick. The tomato skins seemed to dissolve and the basil smelled divine. And you should be able to make this with any fresh tomatoes you have on hand. I really can’t imagine I never made it before! Believe me, it takes much longer to tell you how to make it than to actually do it!

pasta pomodoro2

I’ve got another dish of cherry tomatoes on the counter that are almost ripe, so I’ll be making this again in a few days. I have a package of little pasta bow-ties – from Italy, of course – that I think will be perfect! Can’t wait to try this again!

And before I leave you with this Tomato News… here’s another idea for your regular-size tomatoes…

I learned this years ago from my sister-in-law Karen. One summer night, she and her family came to our house for pizza. Karen brought along a couple of nice ripe tomatoes and sliced them up. When the pizza came, she encouraged us all to put a slice of tomato right on the hot pizza.

Hmmm… it wasn’t love at first bite for me, but it was oddly refreshing. But I will say, the first time I tried it, I liked the pizza better by itself. Still… every once in a while when we got pizza and there was a fresh tomato on the counter, I would try it again. And I always thought… hmmmm… but kinda good.

tomato on pizza2

Well, now I’m a convert. (And must I lecture you on how you develop your taste? It takes more than one try, folks! Grow up and try things! More than once! Otherwise you’ll never know what you are missing.)

Anyway, today, I’ve got just a few luscious red tomatoes on the counter and I got to thinking about that pizza connection. Suddenly I had to have it. I called Cousin Vinny’s for a thin-crust pepperoni and while I was waiting I sliced up the ripest tomato as thin as I could get it. (Use a serrated knife for this!)

When the pizza came, I put the tomato slices right on the hot pizza and sprinkled just a PINCH of salt on the tomato. Yes, it’s salty, but I like to TASTE the salt on top. Wow! What a special treat that can only be had this time of year. (Thanks, Karen!)

So enjoy your tomatoes while you can. It’s feast or famine with those babies!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. scoopcoop69
    Aug 02, 2015 @ 23:06:41

    Okay how do I get this by email?………squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze it through, girl!!!!
    Yuuuuuuuuuuuuum!!
    🍝
    Patti

    Date: Mon, 3 Aug 2015 00:38:17 +0000
    To: fpmtg1@msn.com

    Reply

  2. Trackback: Another Year of Tomatoes, Come and Gone | thesketchylife

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