sweet summer sauce

As I mentioned last week my tomatoes and peppers are very happy with this record breaking hot weather. So happy in fact that I have an insane number of cherry tomatoes sitting on my kitchen counter. I’ve been eating them everyday day; quickly sauteed with eggs, in a green salad or as a snack, but I’m not even close to making a dent in my overwhelming supply. So, what’s a girl to do but… make sauce!

Ordinarily I make red sauce during the cool months with canned tomatoes, a bit of lean meat (to round out the flavor) and a full day of simmering on the stove. But this was going to be a summer sauce; all garden fresh ingredients with a short cooking time and instead of meat I’d use a bit of butter to knock down the acidic bite.

This resulting sauce was some of the best I’ve ever made. Seriously, the best! It was so good that after we enjoyed it for dinner the remainder went directly into the freezer; how lovely it will be to pull out a container of that wonderful sauce on a cold winter night. And with the way my plants are continuing to produce tomatoes, I just might be able to squeak out another batch or two of sauce before the end of the season. Hooray for happy heat loving tomatoes!

Fresh Cherry Tomato Sauce
This sauce was the perfect way to use the freshest of summer ingredients from my garden. It was only a matter of hours from harvesting to serving.

3 tbsp. olive oil
4 cups chopped onion
8 cloves garlic, minced
4 1/2 lbs. cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
5 springs fresh thyme
6 large leaves fresh basil, julienned
3 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup red wine
3 tbsp. unsalted butter

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Cook the onion until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 5 minutes. Add the whole cherry tomatoes, give a good stir and let cook (covered) until the tomatoes begin to pop.
  2. Add the fresh herbs, bay leaves, red pepper, salt and wine. Let cook, stirring every 2-3 minutes and smashing the tomatoes with the back of a spatula, until all the tomatoes are popped, about 20 minutes.
  3. Turn the heat to low, cover and let simmer until the sauce has thickened, 25-30 minutes. Once everything is soft and cooked through remove the bay leaves and thyme stems. Use an immersion blender to break down the skins, seeds and onion and make the sauce smooth.
  4. Add 3 tbsp. of unsalted butter and 1 tsp. white sugar and let cook uncovered for another 10 minutes. Adjust the salt to taste and serve with your favorite pasta or cool for use at a latter date.

oh so easy hors d’oeuvres

If you were to ask me what I think the most challenging part of planning a dinner party was I’d have to say the hors d’oeuvres and appetizers. I truly feel like they can set the pace for the rest of the meal. If your hors d’oeuvres are uninspired and lame, you can be pretty sure your guests will be anticipating the same out of your dinner. And if they’re overly fussy and complicated your guests may pass on them all together. But… when done right they’re capable of making even the most last minute of gatherings feel like a special occasion. I bet you never realized what a slippery slope hors d’oeuvres could be!

I’ve been known to serve fancy little wonton wrappers with pesto and goat cheese, homemade sweet bean piroshki and yummy curried butternut squash soup as an hors d’oeuvre or first course, but sometimes complicated and fussy is precisely my goal. However a casual get together calls for much simplier fare, something along the lines of freshly steamed shrimp with cocktail sauce, spinach dip with crudites, or a lovely antipasto plate with some tasty cheese, fruit, herb roasted olives and slow roasted tomatoes. I know, that last part sounds eye-rollingly complicated, right? Well I’m here to tell you it’s not, not at all. And the best part is that the olives and tomatoes can be made ahead of time so all you have to do is arrange yourself a little platter of tasty morsels on the day of the party and hors d’oeuvres are served!

Orange + Herb Roasted Olives
I used a mixture of small brined Nicoise, Picholine and Kalamata olives and large green Italian Cerignola olives for this recipe.

olives

2 cups assorted olives (3/4 pound)
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. orange juice
12 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tbsp. grated orange zest

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. In a small bowl toss together all of the ingredients except for the orange zest. Roast until sizzling, stirring half way through, about 15-20 minutes.
  2. Remove thyme and rosemary springs and transfer the olives to a bowl, toss with the orange zest. Serve at room temperature.

*adapted from food & wine

Slow Roasted Plum Tomatoes
These are delicious paired with a little cheese, on a sandwich or just as is. Typically I use fresh herbs over dried whenever possible, but in this case since the goal is to dehydrate and reduce the tomatoes I prefer to use dried herbs.

tomatoes3

2 lbs. plum tomatoes
2 tbsp. olive oil
dried thyme
garlic powder
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 225°F. Slice each tomato in half and place them cut side up on a baking sheet.
  2. Drizzle each half with olive oil, then sprinkle generously with thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 3 hours.
  3. After 3 hours has elapsed drizzle each half with balsamic vinegar and continue to roast for another 2-3 hrs or until they become very flat and wrinkled (this will all depend on the size of your tomatoes). Let cool and serve or refrigerate for a later use.