12 August, 2014
Heirloom Tomatoes: A saucy story
- yellow onion, 1 medium diced
- red bell pepper, 1/2 diced
- garlic, 3 cloves minced
- heirloom tomatoes: 8-10 large cored, peeled, and diced
- basil, 15 leaves torn
- oregano, about 1/8 c. dried or 2 tbs. fresh
- olive oil, about 1/8 c.
- balsamic vinegar, drizzle
- 1/4# cooked ground pork
- 1/4# cooked ground beef
Heat a 4qt saucepan over medium-high heat. Drizzle olive oil into heated pan and immediately add diced onions & peppers. Season with salt. Once translucent, add minced garlic and reduce heat to medium, constantly stirring. Add tomatoes, a drizzle of balsamic and half of the oregano. Simmer on medium for at least an hour, until color deepens and consistency thickens. Add cooked ground pork & beef. Finish with chopped fresh basil, incorporating into the sauce. Salt to taste and serve over your favorite pasta.
Before a glass of wine and winning two games of our regularly-played card game, I decide to prepare a bolognese sauce for dinner. I wash the rather large assortment of heirlooms from this week’s farmers market before gathering about 15 leaves of fresh basil growing in my garden. Once back in the kitchen, I grab a yellow onion and a red bell pepper from the wicker basket and realize that the ceramic dish that stores our garlic is empty. A quick trip to the grocer on our block would provide the final ingredient necessary for simmering up a batch of bolognese.
With the convenience of being available to purchase an heirloom variety just five minutes from home, I return home with a head of garlic from Christopher Ranch. On a side note, about an hour and a half drive from here, there is an annual garlic festival which one member of the ranch cofounded. The festival, celebrating their thirty-eighth year in 2015, has been running as long as I’ve been walking.
While I bring a pot of water to a boil, I remove the skins from three cloves of garlic with the flat side of my favorite knife, a 8″ chef’s. I then “peel” the luscious tomatoes by submersing them in a pot of boiling water; however, there is more than one way to skin a tomato. With the tomatoes in the pot, I dice the onion and red bell pepper. After about five minutes in the boiling water, the tomatoes are ready to be pulled out to cool and after doing so, I heat a 4 quart stainless sauce pan over medium-high heat.
I drizzle about 1/8 cup of olive oil into the heated pan, followed by the onions and peppers. After a quick stir and adding a dash of salt, I reach for the aluminum garlic press my mother gave me as a young chef and press the already peeled garlic into the pan. With time before adding the tomatoes I think to pour a glass of wine, but much to my chagrin, there is none. Out the door I go – this time, to the well-stocked corner store. I remember to turn off the stove and am back to the appetizing aromas before the pan had time to cool down. After pouring a glass of wine and turning on some music, I reignite the stovetop.
While listening to “Italian Traditional Radio” on Pandora, I add the peeled tomatoes to the pot, along with an impulsive addition from the pantry- a dash of balsamic vinegar – and dried oregano, pictured below. If I would have had fresh oregano on hand, I would have used about half as much fresh as pictured below and added it with the basil towards the end of the hour and a half it took to make this sauce.
As my fiancé enters the kitchen and compliments the smell of what’s cooking, he asks if I want to play cards – we frequently play Gin-Rummy. At a point where I can leave the now-covered pot alone on simmer, stirring only occasionally, I pour him a glass of wine as he deals out seven cards to us both. I win two games out of five and realize its time to check in on the simmering pot. I find the sauce coming along nicely as I find the bright colors, deepened, and the aroma, strengthened. A pot of water is transferred to the stove by him in preparation for cooking the pasta (tonight, a combination of both linguine and spaghetti).
We clear the cards from the table and set it, as usual: two of the four shallow bowls from the cupboard, eclectic flatware, twice-folded paper towels, and water poured into pint glasses advertising various tech companies. With the water now boiling, I add a the pasta and a pinch of salt to the water – first the linguine and two minutes in, the spaghetti. While the pasta is cooking, I add the fresh basil and have Gage taste the sauce. We both agreed that adding some ground pork/beef that had been cooked earlier would make it heartier as our stomachs were rumbling. Without the meat, it was light & sweet and I definitely think I would have left it vegetarian had I not been so hungry.
As we sat down to the table around 8pm, we had very little conversation as forkfuls of the al dente pasta topped with this simplified version of bolognese disappeared from our bowls. As he did the dishes, I began thinking about what I would score later this week from the Upper Haight Farmers Market.