Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What to do with a Bumper Crop

Inspired by Ellie, Anna, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, I went to the farmer's market last weekend to do my grocery shopping. I have to say I haven't had a more pleasant experience in a very long time.  Everyone was happy to be there, people were playing music for "money or vegetables," a couple of vendors were selling homemade foccacia and were more than willing to give me tips on how to "dress" it.  But my prize find there was  basket of gigantic tomatoes.  I didn't like tomatoes until I moved to Mississippi. I thought they tasted like cold cardboard.  But I hadn't had a farmer's tomato -- sweet, fat, juicy fruit that tastes like sunshine if anything ever has.  

When I got home with my find, I found Marion, my cotton farmer neighbor, had deposited another box of his own lovely red tomatoes on my back porch.  Bumper crop.  And not one of them went to waste.  Although I ate some on triscuits with cheese, and some on my favorite sandwich -- Bottletree bakery bread, onion-and-chive cream cheese, fresh spinach, tomatoes, and thinly sliced cucumbers with just a little salt and pepper -- I was still left with a ton of fruit.  So, I put together a combination of recipes and made what has become my favorite marinara sauce EVER.  It's not too sweet -- I hate saccharine-flavored Ragu -- and it's not too bitter like mine usually turns out. It was ideal. Since a lot of ya'll are growing your own tomatoes or have generous neighbors and friends like I do, I thought I'd post this all-too-easy recipe, which will provide me with spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, and calzone toppings well into December.  

Crock-Pot Marinara

Chop the following and put into a crock pot -- 

About 6 gigantic fresh tomatoes or however many fill most of the crock pot
1 of the big cans of whole tomatoes with juice
2 cans tomato sauce
1 yellow onion
1 medium sized carrot (this, not sugar, seems to be key)
4 garlic cloves
2 tbl fresh oregano
2 tbl fresh thyme
2 tbl fresh basil (I used globe basil)
2 fairly good-sized pinches -- and by pinches I mean meager hollow-of-the-palm full -- sea salt or to taste
a dash of freshly ground pepper
a dash of red cayenne pepper
1 tbl white wine that you would drink
a splash of balsamic vinegar (the other key to offsetting acidity) 

Heat on low 8 hours. I then blended with a hand mixer to break up some of the chunks but you may not want to.  If it isn't thick enough for you after that, you can also add about 1 to 2 tbl tomato paste to make it more like the consistency of bottled sauce.  


Anna said...

I was just going to sit down and make my grocery list for the week without a clue of what I was going to make. Now I know!

The Medievalist said...

This looks yummy. I'll let you know how it turns out. I'm putting you on my blogroll.

Laura Owings said...

I love tomato, cheese, and basil sandwiches on toast! I can make them really simple, but if I have the time, I prefer the Barefoot Contessa recipe with sourdough bread. You can get this sandwich at Bronte's in Memphis. It's delish!

Tomato, Mozzarella, and Pesto Panini

2 large ripe beefsteak tomatoes
1 (16-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella
12 slices bakery white bread, sliced 1/2-inch thick
about 1 cup prepared pesto
kosher salt
unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat a panini grill machine.
Core the tomatoes and slice the tomatoes and mozzarella 1/4-inch thick.
Place the bread slices on a work surface. Spread each slice evenly with pesto. Place a layer of mozzarella (about 2 slices) on half of the bread and cover with a layer of tomato. (If the tomatoes are large, it will only be one slice.) Sprinkle the tomato with salt. Place the remaining slices of bread, pesto side down, on top. Spread the top and bottom of each sandwich with softened butter.
Grill the sandwiches in batches on the panini grill for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mozzarella starts to ooze. Cut each sandwich in half, and serve warm.