By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director
It was a beautiful evening and we picnicked in the backyard -- but most importantly, this evening we had our first meal this summer mostly from our garden.
The simple menu was sliced cucumbers with a little sea salt, backyard tomatoes with fresh basil and cheese, and a thick tomato meat sauce with pasta. Henry picked the tomatoes and herbs, mixed sauce and chowed the cucumbers. The meal was a success. And I must admit that when Henry said, "Daddy, I like your tomato sauce," I kinda melted.
The only recipe of the meal was the sauce. I really only have more of a template than a recipe, and all the measurements below are highly approximate. Remember, I'm not a trained chef; my priority is making dinner quickly and with as few dishes to clean in the end as possible. The end result always tastes much more complicated than it is. With those caveats, here it goes...
4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
1 medium head of garlic, minced
8 medium sized tomatoes
Splash of red wine
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 huge bunch of chopped fresh basil and oregano
1 teaspoon of crushed fennel
1 sprinkle of red crushed peppers
1 diced bell pepper
1 lbs. ground lean turkey
Sea salt to taste
Brown garlic and onions in a hot pot with the olive oil. When caramelized, add 7 of the tomatoes roughly chopped. Soften for a few minutes then take an immersion blender (my favorite kitchen utensil after a good knife) and blend it all together. Season with salt to taste. Add the final tomato, but this time have it finely diced. Then add the rest of the ingredients including wine, spices and herbs, sugar (to balance the acid of the tomatoes), veggies, and turkey (don't use meat for a pure tomato sauce -- I can go both ways). And if you have mushrooms, they always add great flavor.
Let it come to a light boil covered, and cook for about 10 minutes for the flavors to meld. Then remove the top and cook for an additional 25-45 minutes and let it reduce and thicken. If it is not thick enough for you, you can always add tomato paste. Taste. Add salt and pepper if necessary.
It never comes out the same, but it always comes out great. And when the bulk of the ingredients were picked from your garden just an hour earlier, it's hard to mess up.