Tomato Sauce with Thai Basil (or regular Basil): Quick, Thick, and Easy!

the fresh ingredients.
The ingredients

WOW, this recipe sure is a winner! I was told by one shopper that I should mass produce and sell it. It really is that good. And you can make it, too, in under an hour.

The secret is twofold. First, straining after a short cooking time, cooking just the liquid down separately and then adding the reserved pulp back in means intense flavor from the cooked down liquid and fresh flavor and texture from the tomatoes and other ingredients that don’w actually get cooked for all that long. Second, I really liked the addition of Thai basil to this simple recipe. You can’t really taste the anise/fennel flavor of the Thais basil but it lends something special to the dish. Although, you could certainly make a fabulous sauce using all regular basil, with our without additional fresh herbs of your choice. And, don’t take the amounts in the recipe as written in stone. Pinch and handful measurements will work fine.

It is a great way to make sauce when you don’t have a lot of time. It is also a great way to use up tomatoes in this season of abundance. This recipe is perfect for freezing, too. Here is the recipe:

The first simmer

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 smallish onion, chopped
1/3 cup chopped or torn fresh Thai basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped or torn fresh basil leaves
1/8 cup chopped or torn fresh parsley
5 lbs slicing tomatoes
5-6 turns of the black pepper mill, to taste
1/2 tsp salt or to taste

Slice the tomatoes in half, removing core, and grate into a large bowl, sliced side on the biggest hole side of the grater. Discard skins.
Heat olive oil, add onion and garlic and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

The liquid just about cooked down. I added some extra Thai basil leaves to the liquid to infuse a bit more flavor.

Strain mixture through a mesh strainer, in batches as need to get as much liquid out as possible. Reserve the pulp and pour the liquid back into the pan and simmer until reduced until the liquid is thick enough to stay apart so you can see the pan for a few moments after running a spoon along the bottom.

Thick sauce! So good!

Add the pulp back and heat through. That’s it! Make a big batch and freeze some.

Amaranth, the Green that is Red. A quick and easy sauté side

Just five ingredients!

We finally had a cool enough market day to use some heat in the cooking demo! I went with amaranth, a plant better known for its grains but that has really tasty greens as well. Although, the “greens” that our farmers at Flats Mentor Farm grow are more red. In fact, they look like they are a kind of coleus plant rather than an edible veggie.

While it can be used like any green, it really shines when sautéed due to its slightly sturdy texture and touch of umami in its flavor.

Here is what to use and how to do it:

Rinse, dry, and the prep amaranth by removing the leaves from the stems and tearing the leaves into largish pieces. Chop or mince (your choice) a few cloves of garlic, heat olive oil in a sauté pan and give the garlic a 15- 30 second start before adding the amaranth leaves. Then just cook, taking care to not have the heat so high that the garlic burns before the greens are done. It will take 5-7 minutes before the greens shrink and soften. Add salt and pepper if or as desired and remove from heat when done to your preferred texture and taste.

This shot was taken the same evening as the demo when I made the dish at home.

That’s it! And along with getting your amaranth from Flats Mentor Farm, be sure to pick up some fresh garlic from them or another of our farmers.

By the way, two boys (unrelated) just about to turn four years old LOVED this, and a five year old girl deemed it “delicious.” And our regular taster Eva Rose loved it, too. And so did my husband. So, I’d say its worth a try.

Keeping Things Cool: Cucumber Blueberry Salad. And Quick Pickles!

Cuke and blueberry salad ingredients

How hot was it? We don’t need to relive that. 🙂 But, cucumbers worked well as the star ingredient of the WFM cooking demo on July 20! And, since all our produce farmers had plenty of cukes and/or blueberries for sale, a cucumber and blueberry salad seems a good choice. Plus, I brought back the Quick and Simple Pickles recipe from last August with just a minor twist, using maple syrup from our own Ackermann’s Maple Farm as the sweetener.

Fill the pint jar to the brim!

First, click HERE for the link to the Quick Pickles recipe. I followed it as is except I used a scant tablespoon of maple syrup instead or the two tablespoons of honey I used last summer. The original recipe calls for up to two tablespoons of sugar, buts notes the sweetener as optional. Oh, I used pickling cukes. I tried a bite and found the peel to be bitter. It would not matter when using a heat pickling technique, but I opted to peel them for this recipe.

Now, on to the salad! So easy! I used regular cucumbers and followed this recipe except for changes noted:

Cucumber Blueberry Salad
1 cucumber (10 inches long and 2.5″ diameter or so)
2 cups (1 pint) fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions
2 tablespoons olive oil
1+ tablespoon lime juice (I used freshly squeezed lemon juice)
1+ tablespoon rice vinegar (or type of your choice)
½ cup coarsely chopped cilantro or parsley leaves, loosely packed (I used parsley)
¼ teaspoon salt
1⁄8 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese, optional (No feta used but a great addition!)

Of course, adjust all seasonings/ingredients to taste!
 

Peel cucumbers if/as desired. With a sharp knife, cut the cucumber in half lengthwise. With the tip of a spoon, scrape out the seeds
Cut into thin slices. In a large bowl, toss cucumber, blueberries, scallions and. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, lime (or lemon) juice, parsley or cilantro , salt and pepper. Pour over the cucumber mixture and toss to combine.
Sprinkle with feta cheese, if desired (you could use a stronger vinegar if using feta). As I always say, use all recipes as a guideline. What tastes best to YOU is what matters. That and supporting our farmers and vendors, of course. Enjoy!

Raw Beet Salad is Just a Few Grates Away

Well, you can of course use the grating attachment with your food processor, but nothing can beat the utter simplicity of a grater, a knife, beets and a few good condiments and seasonings.

Well, you can of course use the grating attachment with your food processor, but nothing can beat the utter simplicity of a grater, a knife, beets and a few good condiments and seasonings.

Here is the link to the recipe I used:

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/7289-raw-beet-salad

And, here it is written out:

1 pound beets
1 large shallot *
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, or to taste *
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or other good strong vinegar *
Minced parsley, dill, chervil, rosemary or tarragon *

* There were no shallots, so i substituted a comparable amount of scallions from Flats Mentor Farms, using mostly the white bulb and just a bit of the green. In lieu of Dijon, I opted for the Old School Kitchen Maple Bourbon Mustard from Jane of West River Creamery. I used a nice red wine vinegar that paired nicely with the beets, and I used fresh oregano from Fay Mountain Farm for the herb. the beautiful Golden Beets were from Farmer Dave’s.

Peel the beets and the shallot. Combine them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, and pulse carefully until the beets are shredded; do not puree. (Or grate the beets by hand and mince the shallots; combine, [as i did].) Scrape into a bowl.
Toss with the salt, pepper, mustard, oil and vinegar. Taste, and adjust seasoning. Toss in the herbs, and serve.

This is a quick, easy, and versatile salad, perfect for a hot summer day. Read the notes below the recipe on the NYtimes site for a number of ideas as to how you can jazz this one up. Enjoy!

And, a thank you to the woman who helped me determine the final adjustments of the seasonings!

No Cook Tomato Sauce / Bruschetta Spread

It was a muggy day and the weather was iffy, so I went for a simple concoction, albeit I did toss my intentions to go electricity-free and used a food processor instead of dicing and mashing to make a thick tomato sauce that could double as a spread for bruschetta.

I got both big tomatoes and fresh basil from Kelly’s Farm and cherry tomatoes, fresh garlic, red scallions, and parsley from Farmer Dave’s, using only olive oil, plus salt and pepper to taste from my “bag of tricks” of pantry items.

I was basing the recipe on one I had seen asking of 2 and 1/4 lb tomatoes, and, between two big tomatoes and a pint of cherries, I think I used about that. And, I used a bit more than a tablespoon of chopped garlic since it was so fresh and juicy that I felt the sauce could use extra. NOTE: when using very fresh, young garlic, the bulbs are not fully developed in to separate cloves, nor is the skin dry and easy to remove. But, sharp knife takes care of that! And oh, it tastes so good. I ate a clove raw.

The secret ingredient

The original recipe did not call for red scallions, but they were so pretty that I just had to grab a bunch, and I think they added that “special something/secret ingredient” flavor and texture to the end product. As to parsley, no one had pre-cut available by the time I “shopped,” so I purchased a plant for my home from Farmer Dave’s and picked what I needed fresh from the plant.

Here’s basic the recipe:

  • 2 1/4 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon flat leave parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic (typically two cloves) or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons sliced (dice size) red scallion, red part only (optional)
  • 1/4 cup good quality olive oil

First, cut the cherry tomatoes in half and the larger tomatoes in quarters and squeeze out the seeds and as much pulp and juice as you can. (Because this sauce is not cooked down, it is crucial to remove as much liquid as possible from the tomatoes so you don’t end up with a soupy mess.)

Put all the tomato pieces in a food processor and process for 15 seconds or more to create a mealy texture and remove to a strainer over a bowl to catch the liquid. (don’t dump the liquid – it tastes great as a beverage!)

While the processed tomatoes are straining, remove all stems from the basil and parsley before measuring, with the leaves somewhere between loosely and tightly packed, chop your garlic and scallion, and get your olive oil ready to measure.

Ready the final step

Put all the veggies and the olive oil in the processor and process away for, perhaps another 10-15 seconds. It really does not take long and you do want to leave some texture.

Then, add salt and pepper to taste. I used about 1/3 teaspoon of salt and that popped the flavor just right for me. But always stir well and taste and don’t be afraid to add just a bit more at a time until it reaches that “aha!” point.

And, that’s it! Mix it with hot or cooled cooked pasta and top with some Parmesan cheese, if desired, spread on a baguette slice and top with fresh mozzarella, or use as a base for pizza. To ramp things up, put it is a sauce pan to cook it down a bit and add several tablespoons of butter for a decadent but so worth it addition to anything calling for a rich tomato sauce.

Samples offered at the Market Kitchen Tent

While you are at it, take advantage of the summer bounty of freshly picked tomatoes from all our local farmers and make and freeze a few batches for a cold winter day.