Monday, August 19, 2013

The Lucky Tomato

It's funny how things change over time. For instance, once it became accepted that tomatoes were not poisonous (see Tomatoes To Die For), the once shunned fruit became a symbol of luck and prosperity! In fact, it was customary to place a tomato on the mantle of a family's new home, blessing their new life. When tomatoes were not seasonally available, tomato sized balls of red fabric were stuffed with sand or sawdust and used in the place of the real ones! That is why pincushions became the iconic red tomato! Who knew?
Not traditional is this recipe for "Provencale Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce!" I've been making this sauce for years, ever since I discovered it in an old 1998 Gourmet magazine. Unlike my Fresh Tomato Marinara, in which the tomatoes are peeled and cooked on the stove top, this recipe roasts the tomatoes along with a whole head of garlic and seasoned with rosemary and thyme. Because it is not necessary to peel the tomatoes, this is the perfect recipe to use up random size and types of tomatoes, like cherry tomatoes! Once tender, all the roasty goodness is blended together with an unconventional acid source - freshly squeezed orange juice! I know it sounds weird, but it really works! This recipe is a nice alternative to traditional tomato marinara! It's so good, you'll want to freeze some for a burst of summer one cold, wintry day!

Provencale Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce

Makes about 3 cups (enough for 1 pound pasta)

Olive oil
1 head of garlic
4 pounds home or local-grown fresh ripe tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice, or to taste (1 orange should have enough juice.)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and lightly oil 2 shallow baking pans with the olive oil.

Separate the garlic head into cloves, discarding the loose papery outer skins but keeping skin intact on the cloves, wrap in foil, crimping seams to seal tightly. Cut the tomatoes in half and arrange in one layer, cut-side up, in the baking pans. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons each of rosemary and thyme evenly over the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. (I drizzle over a little more olive oil before baking.)

Put the foil-wrapped garlic in one of the baking pans with the tomatoes and roast together in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, switching position of pans halfway through roasting, about 45 minutes total, or until the garlic is tender and the tomatoes are slightly charred. Unwrap the garlic and cool slightly. Peel the skins from each garlic clove and force pulp with warm tomatoes and herbs through a food mill. (I don't own a food mill, so I just whiz it up in a food processor or blender.)

Finely chop the remaining teaspoon of rosemary and remaining teaspoon of thyme and stir into the sauce with the orange juice. Season sauce with salt (about 1/2 teaspoon) and pepper and reheat if necessary. Sauce keeps covered and chilled, 4 days or, frozen, 4 months. Reheat sauce over low heat and reseason with orange juice, salt, and pepper, to taste.

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