Monthly Archives: August 2009

Sauce from Freshly Picked Tomatoes

This was my second time making homemade tomato sauce from tomatoes from my garden this summer.  The first time, I started with 2 pounds of tomatoes and that just did not make enough sauce for my druthers.  This time, I started with over 4 pounds of assorted types of  tomatoes, including 3 plum tomatoes from the plants in the whiskey barrel in my back yard.

plum tomatoes in my back yard

plum tomatoes in my back yard

I cut a small X at the bottom of each tomato, put them in almost boiling water for a minute or so, cooled in ice water, and slipped the skins off.  I then cut the tomatoes in half, cored them, and squeezed most of the seeds and excess liquid out.  Here are the results:

Just under 2.5 pounds of crushed tomatoes from a bit over 4 pounds of whole tomatoes

Just under 2.5 pounds of squeezed tomatoes from a bit over 4 pounds of whole tomatoes

Next, I added about 2 T of extra virgin olive oil and 3 cloves of garlic, chopped, to my 10 inch saute pan, put the heat on med-high, and got things sizzling just a bit, turned down the heat and sauteed until the garlic was aromatic.  Then – the fun part:  mushing/crushing up the tomatoes with my hands before adding them to the pan.  Yes, is IS okay to play with your food!

I also added a teaspoon each of salt and sugar at this, followed by a chopped green chili pepper and a Tbsp of fresh thymes leaves  from our attic balcony garden:

peppers and thyme in the sky.  For Wakefield MA folks, that is the Galvin School parking lot in the background.

peppers and thyme in the sky. For Wakefield MA folks, that is the Galvin School parking lot in the background.

I also added a Tbsp of chopped fresh basil leaves at this time.  After simmering for 5 or 10 minutes, I used a slotted spoon to remove the pulp so the liquid could cook down and thicken.

pulp and liquid separated

pulp and liquid separated

Here is the liquid after simmering uncovered for 20 minutes:

thickened sauce makes a great base for the sauce

thickened liquid makes a great base for the sauce

At this time, I added back the pulp, and added a teaspoon of fairly finely chopped fresh mint leaves, also from my attic garden.  Here are two pictures showing how many mint leaves make a teaspoon of chopped mint.  That is chocolate mint, by the way.  My favorite!

mint leaves with tablespoon for size perspective

mint leaves with tablespoon for size perspective

a teaspoon of chopped mint

a teaspoon of chopped mint

I let the sauce simmer a bit more and, voila!  Amazing sauce – nice and thick.

Thick and chunky sauce

Thick and chunky sauce

Two cups sauce, to be exact

Two cups sauce, to be exact

This came out REALLY good!  YUM!

Here is the list of ingredients I used this time around:

  • Fresh tomatoes, assorted varieties, just under 4 1/2 pounds
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
  • 3 good-sized cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • one green chili pepper, de-seeded and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh mint leaves

Did I miss anything?  <grin>  Of course,  I will probably vary the recipe ingredients and minutes of simmering each time I make sauce.  But, this should do as a good guide.

I’d like to extend a special thanks to food blogger extraordinaire Chez Pim.  I found her post 15-Minute Tomato Sauce. Really. when searching for tips on making sauce from fresh tomatoes.  While my version takes more than 15 minutes, I got the idea of separating out the pulp and thickening the liquid by itself from her.  Based on my previous sauce making, I can say that the separation method is worthwhile, whether you are in a hurry to make the sauce or not!

Quick and Easy Pesto Pasta Salad

I can’t do my usual Saturday morning Famer’s Market “shop and socialize” thing this morning because I have a Board Retreat to attend.  Luckily, it is minutes from the market, so I am hoping to leave early, toting my potluck lunch item (you guessed, it, Pesto Pasta Salad) and grab at least some corn and potatoes before going to the meeting.

So, until I find time to post about the meal I made and documented last night, (using leftover grilled London Broil for pepper, onion, and cheese steak subs) this will be my weekend cooking post.

Bow Ties with Pesto, Feta and Cherry Tomatoes

Recipe courtesy Dave Lieberman via with some of my notes added

*  1 pound bow tie pasta (farfalle)  (I used a 14.5 ox of Barilla Plus)
* 3/4 cup Pesto (see my pesto post)
* 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
* 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
* Olive oil, as needed


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Stir in the bow ties and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and run it under cold water just until it stops steaming. Bounce the pasta around to get rid of as much water as you can.

Dump the pasta into a large serving bowl. Stir in the pesto until the pasta is coated. Toss in the cherry tomatoes and the crumbled feta. Taste the salad and season it as you like with salt and pepper. You can make the salad up to about 1 hour before you serve it. Check out the salt and pepper just before you serve the salad. If it’s looking a little dry, add some olive oil and stir it around.

And, voila!

Pesto salad aug 8

Pesto Pasta Salad with Tomatoes and Feta

I have not actually tried it yet and, since the recipe says to serve within an hour of serving, I am not sure how it will be after being chilled during the morning part of our meeting.  Well, only one way to find out.  I’ll update this post about it later.

pesto, pesto, pesto…. :) and food art featuring fresh-picked garlic

I am blessed to have a space in a “borrowed/cooperative” garden  in which I have enough basil plants that I can pick enough basil at one time to equal 3 packed cups.  Time for pesto, of course!

An added bonus was freshly picked garlic from Farmer Dave of Dracut Mass who is at the Wakefield Farmer’s Market each Saturday.  I had some walnuts in my freezer (just toasted them up a bit and they were fine) and parsley from same garden as the basil source, good olive oil… It was heavenly!

Here is the recipe I used as a guide – from Cook’s Illustrated – followed by my notes and pics:


Makes 3/4 cup, enough for 1 pound of pasta.   Published July 1, 1996.

Pounding the basil releases its flavorful oils into the pesto more readily. Basil usually darkens in homemade pesto, but you can boost the green color a little by adding the optional parsley. For sharper flavor, substitute one tablespoon finely grated pecorino Romano cheese for one tablespoon of the Parmesan. The pesto can be kept in an airtight container, covered with a thin layer of oil (1 to 2 tablespoons), and refrigerated for up to four days or frozen for up to one month.
1/4     cup pine nuts , toasted (or substitute almonds or walnuts)
3     medium cloves garlic , unpeeled
2     cups packed fresh basil leaves
2     tablespoons fresh parsley leaves (optional)
7     tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4     cup finely grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano
Ground black pepper

1. Toast the nuts in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes; set aside. Add the garlic to the empty skillet and toast over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant and the color of the cloves deepens slightly, about 7 minutes. Let the garlic cool slightly, then peel, and chop.

2. Place the basil and parsley (if using) in a heavy-duty 1-gallon zipper-lock plastic bag. Pound the bag with the flat side of a meat pounder or rolling pin until all the leaves are bruised.

3. Process the nuts, garlic, herbs, oil, and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt in a food processor until smooth, stopping as necessary to scrape down the sides of the bowl, about 1 minute. Stir in the Parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste.


First – I was wondering, just HOW packed should the cups of basil leaves be?  So, I packed them pretty much to the max a few times and weighed the results each time.  1.5 ounces per cup is what I got consistently.

1 cup packed basil equals 1.5 oz.  That's a one cup measure to the left.

1 cup packed basil equals 1.5 oz. That's a one cup measure to the left.

I had 3 cups/4.5 oz of basil leaves, to I increased amounts accordingly, although I lost concentration early on and toasted 3 times the amount of walnuts instead of 1 and 1/2 times, and also added .2 oz of leftover pine nuts I found in the fridge – but the pesto didn’t suffer from it!

Here is a shot of the freshly picked garlic from the Farmer’s Market that I used:

garlic knife basil

By the way, the knife you see in my pics was given to me by my Mom about 20 years ago.  It is a great knife.  And, I am lucky enough to have a live-in knife sharpening expert who keeps it and all my knives in most excellent shape!

Here is the end result:

Tomatoes picked from our backyard “whisky barrel” garden seasoned with  a bit of  dried oregano, freshly ground pepper, and salt, and then drizzled with olive oil,

The above-described pesto, and

Totally amazing “aged 3 years” cheddar cheese purchased at, yes, you guessed it, the Wakefield Farmer’s Market from Phil Hermann and MooBaaNaa Cheese. (I bought the ricotta today, also, and look forward to trying it. Phil said it is great for dessert with a touch of honey.)

But, here is our little appetizer feast:

pesto and cheese

YUM. There is nothing else to say.

arrrggghh – but I’ll write down the recipe, next time!

I am so disappointed with myself.   I purposely wrote down, exactly, each ingredient and how much of each when I made vegetable stock a few days ago.  It came out heavenly.  Sweet, with just a touch of a a so subtle edge of bitter that added depth…  And I lost the darn slip of paper before I got it onto the computer.  ARRGGHH!

But, no fear.  I will do it again and be sure to immediately record it for posterity upon making it – and then share it if it tastes as good.  <grin>

I can tell you the key ingredient. Corn cobs.  Yes, after you enjoy your corn, SAVE THE COBS!  Whether you use a pressure cooker as I do or simmer for a while on the stove, you will be at a high enough temperature to be sure all is safe.  Asparagus stems are great in stock, too.

But, now that I think of it, although I have a bunch in the freezer (I always save and freeze them for stock) I should probably stick with vegetables that are available year-round at a reasonable price while coming up with a veggie stock recipe to share here.  Although, I suspect that the asparagus stems may be almost as important as the corn cobs…  Well, check back later to find out!