I’m not an impulsive person by nature, but take me to a farm stand in mid-August and I get as wide-eyed and flush-faced as another woman would stepping in front of a sale rack full of shoes.  Before my brain has caught up to my eyes I’m loading my basket with all manner of freshly-picked produce.  It’s not until I spread my haul out on the kitchen counter that I start thinking about what exactly I’m going to do with so many vegetables.

This weekend, it was a 10-lb. crate of glossy, red plum tomatoes — for $6! — that bewitched me.  The sturdy, relatively dry-fleshed plum varieties (Roma and San Marzano are two) are better for cooking than salads, so after two pizzas and a batch of oven-dried tomatoes, I turned the remaining 6 lbs. into sauce.

Making sauce from fresh tomatoes is a bit more work than making it from canned — you have to blanch and peel them first — but the results are ethereally light and sweet and well worth a bit of extra effort.

Fresh plum tomato and basil sauce

Yield:  Makes about 2 qts.

6 lbs. plum tomatoes (about 2 dozen big ones)

1/4 c. olive oil

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes (or more or less, to taste)

Two handfuls fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground, black pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Using a sharp paring knife, score an X in the bottom of each tomato.  Blanch tomatoes in boiling water for about 90 seconds, then drain and immediately plunge into a large bowl of ice water.  Slip skins off tomatoes, peeling from the scored end toward the stem end.  Core and finely dice.

Warm a large pot over medium heat.  Drizzle in oil, then add onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and just starting to color, about 8-10 minutes.  Add garlic, pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring, for another minute or two.  Add diced tomatoes and another pinch of salt, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook gently for about 10 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and somewhat collapsed.  Stir in basil, season with black pepper and additional salt if necessary, and serve.

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