Summer is probably really over. All kinds of summery things like swimming and lolling around, or at least the potential to loll, are all done with. It's misty and cool in the morning and evening and the basil looks all done in. But there are some matters of summer still to be dealt with.
Canning, for instance, just seems to go and go; there's all that summer sun and light trapped in the skin of various fruits, and my baskets runneth over. If tomatillos are pouring into your kitchen, I have only the most glowing and positive things to say about this tomatillo salsa, another harvest from one of Marisa's awesome linkfests.
I made some plum glop, my version of not quite jam but almost (the version where you don't care if it sets or not), with the last dregs of the basil so it can offer a little ooh-la-la to the winter oatmeal, and I wish this plum movie was in Smellovision for you:
But I called this meeting to talk about tomatoes. If you are lucky enough to have one more bucketload of tomatoes to manage, there are a lot of things I can tell you about what to do with them. Further thanks to Marisa, I encountered the best tomato sauce for canning that I have ever played with, and we've also roasted and frozen sheets of the littler fellers.
But if you are dealing with not quite enough tomatoes for canning, or what's likely to be the last real tomatoes you see until the sun comes around again, here is the tomato sauce my dear little Italian mamma used to make me when I was a bambina. (All true except for the part of the story where she is Italian. I think it originally came from Marcella Hazan, though, who was bona fide Italian, so even that part is not ENTIRELY not true.) It can only work with real tomatoes, just-picked gorgeous real tomatoes from nearby, that come to you when it is hot enough for that to be happening yet cool enough for you to want hot pasta for dinner. In that sense, it is Walker Evans tomato sauce.
“There’s a wonderful secret here and I can capture it,” Evans told an interviewer in 1971. “Only I can do it at this moment, only this moment and only me.”
It is stunningly simple, the only trick being resisting the temptation to make it more complicated. No garlic. No herbs. No sautéeing or mincing.
You just cut up enough tomatoes to fill a nice big pot, and add an inch (no more!) of water to the bottom of the pot to prevent scorching as they start to cook down, and then cover and cook them until they utterly collapse, as above.
Then you mill them.
What you may want to do now is spread this stuff you milled out onto a thick piece of toast with some stinky cheese:
Or maybe that is just me. Either way, your next step is to take the smooth puree you created, and drop a whole, peeled onion into it (try to peel it with its ends intact, so it stays whole), and simmer the whole thing, stirring every few minutes, until it is reduced by at least 1/3 and (depending on how watery your tomatoes were, which can vary a lot), as much as 1/2.
When it is reduced enough to have some noticeable thickness, which I can't really define for you other than to say it won't be watery anymore, and it will look like sauce, you extract the now worthless onion and then into the puree you put the barest hint of salt, just enough to wake it up and add a little harmony to the sweetness, and (this is the key) a righteous little knob of excellent unsalted butter, a tablespoon or so, just enough to swirl in comfortably and give it a little sheen.
And right now you are maybe thinking 'what?! no BASIL?" or maybe "no GARLIC?!" or something like that, or you are tempted to reach for a lot of cheese, or substitute olive oil for the butter, but this is just
T O M A T O sauce.
The butter gives a subtle little shove to the tomato-ness, not as overpoweringly as cream would, but with a similar effect on your (or my, anyway) inclination to lick your paws and curl up on the top of the laundry basket.