JOMO, laundry, and the persistence of the tomato
I realize that the last time I wrote to you, I shared a recipe for pasta. So, in case your world does not revolve around spaghetti in the same way mine does, I’m very truly sorry. Because I’m sharing another recipe for pasta again today. And I’m sharing another recipe for pasta because we are now into October and still the tomato persists and keeps showing up in my CSA goodie bag.
This is not a complaint. Sweet potatoes and squashes are starting to make an appearance and soon they will be all that comes. But those things beg to linger in hot ovens and since this tiny apartment of mine can barely withstand the 100 degree weather we’ve been having, turning on the oven is the last thing I want to do. Gratitude to the little window unit doing it’s best to keep the cat from having a heat stroke.
I mentioned to a friend today that it’s been 11 days since I’ve spent an evening at home. 11 days since I didn’t have somewhere to be or something to do. Tayari Jones is speaking tonight at the Singletary Center. A free and rare opportunity that I’ve been looking forward to for weeks. Except, now what I’m actually looking forward to even more is not going.
I find a lot of joy in the planning of things. Making the plans, coordinating time with friends, filling the calendar with local events and travel. I love looking forward and being in the anticipation of what’s to come (I’m still working on that being present mindset). But I get carried away pretty often and the next thing I know there’s not a free weekend in sight and I’m waking up in a panic to check the cat’s water bowl because I can’t remember the last time it got filled..
But there is also real satisfaction in opting out. It’s rare, and not without good reason, that I’ll flake on a commitment with another person or something that money was spent on. But outside of that criteria, I won’t hesitate to delete those plans that have been holding space on the calendar with a relieved sigh and a weary smile. It’s a special thing to let the world hum around you while you choose to be still, maybe quietly stirring something in a pot on the stove, or pattering between the washing machine and dryer.
It’s life renewing to put clean sheets on the bed and fold tea towels and pair up matching socks. Domestic chores soothe. I believe I even rest better at night when the laundry isn’t creeping out of the closet like the remnants of a childhood memory monster. It’s a luxury to stretch out on just laundered blankets that aren’t yet covered in tufts of cat hair. Life is hard, you guys.
I’ve been paying zero attention to the veggies in the crisper and the burden is getting unbearable. I’ve eaten tacos for 7 meals in 9 days. They were homemade tacos mind you, but still, a gal has her limits (we can agree to disagree, it’s fine). What I really need is something bright and tangy, preferably with a little kick and a slick of butter. I need the aromas of garlic to permeate the apartment, y’all!
And I need all these things while sipping on a spicy-woozy beverage. I believe it’s called being pantsdrunk.
A friend and I recently compared notes on our favorite ways to turn fresh garden tomatoes into a pasta sauce. I explained my roasting technique to caramelize and deepen the flavors. She blanches her and then purees the flesh. I tried her method and was surprised at how quick + easy it was and how it produced a brighter, fresher flavor. I give you the steps for this below.
This will look like a ridiculous amount of steps for a fairly simple pasta sauce. From start to finish it took me an hour and that’s mostly because I was pre-occupied taking photos and texting. I give some suggestions for shortcuts, but if you have fresh bell peppers on hand and a gas stove, I highly encourage you to roast them yourself. Your home will fill with the most amazing aromas.
Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
3 large tomatoes or 4-5 medium tomatoes
3 sweet red peppers (if you have jarred roasted peppers on hand, those would work, too. Just skip the step below where the peppers get charred)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp dried basil OR 1 tablespoon prepared pesto OR 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (if using fresh, add this at the end)
a couple pinches of red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt + more for taste
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper + more for taste
Blanching the tomatoes
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Leave the tomatoes whole but slice a small x on the bottom of each one (opposite end of the stem). Place them in the boiling water until the skins start to peel back, about 30 seconds to a minute, depending on how ripe the tomatoes are. Do this in batches, if necessary, to avoid crowding the pot. Carefully remove tomatoes from the pot and transfer to a bowl. Set the bowl in the fridge. (Proper blanching method says to plunge tomatoes into an ice bath, but since we are not canning or trying to preserve crispness, it’s ok to be lazy here.) Leave the pot of tomato water on the stove, but turn off heat.
Roasted Peppers (if using jarred peppers, skip this step)
Clean and dry peppers. Leave them whole and set them over high heat on a gas stove or grill. They will start to pop and sizzle and smoke slightly. Leave them alone until one side has charred black. Using tongs, carefully turn them over. Continue like this until the majority of the pepper is charred. Remove from heat and place in a bowl. Cover with a towel or plate or lid and set aside to steam for a few minutes. Once cool enough to handle, use a paring knife to scrape away the charred bits. Remove the end with the stem and clean out the seeds. Roughly chop the peppers and set aside.
Putting it all together:
In a medium pot or deep pan, saute garlic and peppers in olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add dried basil or pesto. and red pepper flakes. If using fresh basil, skip this step for now. Saute another 3 minutes.
Remove tomatoes from the fridge, peel off the skins and use a paring knife to remove the core. Discard skins and cores. Chop the tomatoes and add them along with all their juices to the pan. Add salt and pepper, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes.
At this point I chose to puree the sauce slightly with an immersion blender, just because. Feel free to leave it chunky if that’s your preference. Keep simmering, uncovered, until sauce has thickened to desired consistency.
Check seasonings and add salt + pepper to taste.
Cook your favorite pasta in the reserved tomato water according to package directions. Drain, reserving a cup of the pasta water.
Toss pasta with sauce and fresh basil (if using). Add some of the reserved pasta water to create a looseness to the sauce. I also like to stir in a pat of butter, but this is completely optional. Serve with parmesan. Leave the dishes for another day.