Thursday, August 27, 2009

Alice Waters' Tomato Sauce

Alice Waters is one of my heroes. That should be no surprise to anyone who knows about food--she more or less started the movement that brought fresh and local foods into restaurants. She is an avid promoter of farmers markets, and she started the Edible Schoolyard program, in which elementary schools plant gardens, and the students are able to learn both how grow and how to prepare the food.

However, I'm a bit cheesed off at her right now, or more accurately, at her restaurant, Chez Panisse. Chez Panisse is one of those restaurants that accepts reservations through Open Table, which I love because it means I don't have to have any sort of human interaction. They don't accept reservations until 30 days before the date on which you wish to eat, so on August 26, I signed on, only to have Open Table tell me that I was outside the 30 day window. Ok. I assumed it meant 30 days then, not one calendar month. Imagine my surprise when the next day, Open Table told me that there were no reservations available. So I called Chez Panisse, thinking there must be a glitch. Nope. The man on the phone told me that Open Table, for some reason, doesn't let people make reservations on the first day that CP accepts them. And Chez Panisse knows that! Hey, do you think perhaps that you can advertise that on the website, so that people who are visiting the bay area and have only one day at which to eat at the restaurant of their hero won't be screwed out of a seat?

I wanted to go to Chez Panisse so desperately because Alice has a magical gift for taking simple foods, at the height of their season, and creating something delicious. Evidence of this can be found in her book, The Art of Simple Food. If it's not on your shelf, buy it now. It's the cookbook I most highly recommend, and the one from which this recipe comes.

Fresh Tomato Sauce
2 lbs freshly picked ripe tomatoes (ideally bigger ones than the ones in my photo, as it makes them easier to peel
3 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
1/4 cup olive oil

Optional (I use all):
Pinch of chili flakes

Lop off the stem of the tomatoes and score the bottom with an X. Drop into a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds - 2 minutes. Toss into a bowl of iced (or just really cold) water to stop the cooking. Then peel and gut, as I call it. I peeled the tomatoes right in the water, then moved the skinless ones to a smaller bowl, where I cored them and removed the seeds. This allows me to save as much juice as possible:

I then moved the tomatoes to the cutting board and roughly chopped them.

Heat a cast iron skillet on medium and add the oil. Throw in the chopped garlic (and the chili flakes, if using) and sautee for a bit. Add the tomatoes, then hold a fine mesh strainer over the skillet and dump in the dregs from the bowl. The cores and seeds will stay in the strainer, and all the delicious juices will come out. Add a couple hefty pinches of salt and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add the herbs, if using, about five minutes before it's done simmering.

And that's all! It can be used as is, as a great sauce for pizza (or calzone). Throw it on some pasta with just a bit of freshly grated Parmesan, or add olives, mushrooms, red peppers, sausage, or whatever you like in your pasta. It's a simple base sauce that you can dress up or use casually.

1 comment:

Mary Chaney Spencer said...

YAY!!!! Cannot wait to make more CALZONIES!