Farmer's Market Fresh Tomato Sauce

Red is one of my favorite colors. If you came over to my apartment for dinner, you'd see that I have a collection of red-painted flea market chairs around the farm table. On the chocolate brown wall above my bed, I have an abstract painting of a swirling, red circus big top. I have a closet full of red Ikea flower pots, red placemats and candles.

My fascination with dragging bring red things home extended to the Grand Army Plaza farmer's market. I bought tomatoes from three different stands.

First a confession: I don't love tomatoes. I don't know if I should blame that on the under-ripe seedy, slimy and sour tomatoes we find at the grocery store for most of the year or if I blame it on tomato overload at a young age. In a patch of the backyard where the previous owners og our house had an above ground swimming pool, my parents grew Big Boy and Early Girl tomatoes.

For the past two or three summers, I've been more intersted in tomatoes. While I still skipped standard tomatoes, I found myself falling for quirky heirloom tomatoes. I'd tentatively cut into their gnarled bumps and humps, shake on some salt and pepper and slurp them up. Still, I wasn't really a tomato guy. Last Sunday, though, I couldn't help myself. There was so much red.

When I got home from the market and posted this, I realized how many tomatoes I'd bought. Too many to slice and eat in sandwiches, too many for a salad.

Sunday night, I decided I'd make a fresh tomato sauce. After looking at a few recipes, I got to work in the kitchen. It was hot and we were hungry so I wasn't up for a lot of messing around. The results of my quick work were my favorite thing I'd made in a while. Here's what I did:

I put a red Le Creuset double boiler Dutch oven on over medium heat with some Trader Joe's olive oil. I deliberately didn't add onion or garlic since I wanted full-on fresh tomato flavor.

I put a second pot of water over to boil for my angel hair pasta. I cut the cores out of three tomatoes (who really needs a corer?) , which together weighed just over a pound, with a paring knife and then chopped them up. Unlike grocery store tomatoes, these the meat of the tomato, the seeds, the juice all hung together.

When the oil was warm, I added my tomatoes and I let them cook on medium-low for about 10 minutes, adding salt and fresh cracked pepper. When the tomatoes were almost done cooking, I added about 3 springs of fresh cinnamon basil leaves, which I had carefully washed, pulled from the stems, and given a rough chop.

I decided to skip peeling the tomatoes. The biggest pieces of skin clung to the side of the pot and I picked those out as the sauce cooked down. I let the sauce cook for a few more minutes while the angel hair finished cooking. Then I put the pasta on a platter, put the sauce on top and we were ready for dinner.

The cinnamon basil went especially well with the tomatoes, as the guy who sold it to me at the farmer's market promised. I find regular basil to be overpowering: soapy, medicinal or too green tasting. The cinnamon basil is more complex, but still lighter. Unlike the lemon basil I also tested, the cinnamon basil flavor didn't ease up when cooked.

I called R* over to the kitchen island and we ate it all sitting right there. I served this angel hair with fresh tomato sauce with a side of steamed yellow squash.

"You can taste the freshness," R* said. And that's the best summary for this simple, rich red summer supper.

UPDATE: If you're looking for another summertime fresh tomato recipe, try this.


[Links] "Don't Cry for Me, Sausage Pizza"

R* and I have been waiting for this for months! Tonight we're going to see Madonna at the Garden.

Searching for a connection between me seeing Madonna live for the first time and my food blig, I found this: "Do you want divas with that?" via The Amateur Gourmet. The post, written by a fellow Brooklynite, is about two guys on a road trip dreaming about opening a pizza place in the Village, where every pie is themed on Madonna hits. Check it out!

My favorite:
Ray of Lite (Whole wheat crust, soy cheese, spinach, broccoli, grilled chicken)

Links: We like dinner parties and roller coasters

Dining on Coney Island:
Over the 4th of July holiday, R* and I went to Coney Island. We went to the side show, watched people Shoot the Freak while we sucked down some great gelato, and we rode the Cyclone for the first time. The Nathan's fries were so much better than the fries at Nathan's in JFK international departure terminal and the one squished next to a Dunkin' Donuts in Penn Station. We didn't take the camera with us, so I didn't blog our trip, but I found this great description of Coney Island eats this morning. I'm going back to Coney Island next month to see a Cyclone's game with Dad (Happy Birthday, Dad!) and we'll search for this pistachio soft serve then.

Dining with an actual famous person with quasi-royal connections:
R* and I haven't had a dinner party all summer and I still haven't seen The Devil Wears Prada, so I lapped up every detail of this dinner party with an unnamed fashion personality on one of my favorite New York blogs. Is it really true that the proper way to eat asparagus is with your fingers?

Ricotta regret

I tried two ricotta related recipes last week: Martha Stewart's rigatoni with swiss chard and my own spin on a ricotta and quinoa stuffed zucchini recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini.

After considering the possibility of replacing the ricotta with cottage cheese, I decided I'd stick to the recipe's original intent and try the ricotta. I picked up a big tub of Sorrento ricotta and got to work. I had only cooked with ricotta once before, when I made lasagna at my parent's house. Though that didn't turn out too well -- my lasagna was bland at best -- I still tired to be hopeful.

While the flavor combinations in both taught me new ways to use all the vegetables available in the summer season (quinoa and zucchini! white wine, red pepper flakes and rainbow chard!), the ricotta nearly ruined both dishes.

I thought ricotta would be a new way to support tender early summer vegetables from the farmer's market. I expected it to be creamy, but it was gritty. I thought it would have a mild dairy taste, but the flavor was more like old water.

I wonder if there's a fancier, better, fattier version of ricotta I should have been using? I'm hoping the ricotta Clotilde cooks with in Paris is better that what I picked up at the supermarket. Anyone have some ricotta revelations?

When I get home, I'll look at the fat content of the ricotta and check the expiration date. Too bad I only thought of this now.

KQED food blog: "I for one will probably never (well, maybe in a pinch) purchase a tub of store-bought ricotta again."