Monday, July 26, 2010
Posted by Kate at 6:12 AM
This exceptionally hot summer has given us tomatoes worthy of the name in July. I usually have to wait until August for a good garden tomato. Pretty soon here, the fresh tomatoes will be coming in like gangbusters, and hardly a meal will squeak by without the addition of tomato in one form or another. In a week or so, I may have enough tomatoes at one time to do some canning.
Sometimes after a long day of gardening and other chores, I want a break with dinner preparation. Less frequently, I have foresight enough to know when I'm going to need that break. When that happens, this is a recipe that gets me a long way towards having dinner taken care of before I've eaten breakfast. I like it and share it with you because it's a solar-cooked dish that can be prepared by anyone with a place to set a bowl in full sunlight for several hours during the day. I made this back when I was a college student, long before I thought about investing in a solar oven.
Here's what to do:
Ideally you've got a large clear pyrex or glass mixing bowl. Barring that, a ceramic bowl with a dark glaze is a good choice, but any non-reactive bowl will work. Cut up the equivalent of a few large tomatoes (about 1.5 lbs/ 0.75 kg) directly over the bowl into rough chunks, allowing all the juices to fall in too. You can mix and match your tomatoes - anything ripe from the garden is perfect. Then peel a few cloves of garlic, chop them, and add them to the bowl. Drizzle in some olive oil, add a generous amount of salt (preferably kosher) and freshly ground pepper, and stir everything once or twice. If you want to, you can add a fresh sprig of thyme, oregano, sage, or torn up basil leaves. Or you can wait until the sauce is "done" to season it further. Cover the bowl with saran wrap (plastic, I know, but this is a good use for previously used pieces) and poke several tiny holes in the plastic with a toothpick. Place it where it will get sun as much of the day as possible. If sunlight is limited where you are, placing it on a dark surface such as brick or macadam will speed the cooking.
At the end of the day, this delicately cooked tomato sauce will be warm, luscious, and still chunky. A little bit of the moisture will have escaped by the holes in the plastic, but it will still have quite a bit of liquid. Taste it and adjust the salt and pepper if you wish. Now all it needs is the addition of an herb if you didn't add any before cooking.
You can cook some pasta and add the sauce, dressing it up with extra veg if you have any. Or you can toast thick slices of bread (stale bread would be okay), tear them into bits and toss with the sauce and some mozzarella cheese for a simple panzanella salad. You can mash stale bread cubes into the liquid, add some chopped cucumber, pepper and onion, and have a warmish sort of gazpacho. This stuff is also superb over thick slices of grilled eggplant. If you happen to have some cooked white beans on hand, they pair beautifully with this sauce and some extra olive oil. If left to sit with this sauce overnight, freshly cooked beans will soak up much of the extra liquid. The sauce would probably compliment steamed or poached fish beautifully too, though I haven't tried that.
In any case, I like having dinner half made and already in a bowl when 7 o'clock rolls around. And I especially like a dish made largely from garden ingredients with free energy. Try it; I think you'll like it.