The Nightshade Parade is Here
by Anna Herman
Backyard and farm-stand tomatoes are finally here. Local farmers—and we backyard gardeners—choose varieties to grow based on flavor rather than ability to transport. We also grow varying sizes, shapes and colors with unusual provenances. With names like “mortgage lifter,” “little fairy,” “sweet 100” or “green zebra,” the stories behind the crop are often as interesting as the taste. These vine-ripened globes grown locally can be picked at peak flavor and texture—and should never be refrigerated. Little orange sungolds to eat out of hand, multicolored orbs for simple salad, a nice firm slicer for sandwiches.
A good tomato needs only a bit of flakey Maldon salt to yield its juices and fragrant flesh. Come late August, we can put up quarts of well-cooked plum-style tomatoes into sauce for winter meals—but early summer tomatoes need no cooking to bring out their best. A bit of basil and garlic is never wrong. (Nor bread, nor pasta!)
My favorite make-quick tomato dish—with many variations on a theme—is no-cook tomato sauce tossed with warm noodles or toasted bread.
Enjoy it at the table with a glass of rosé, or while sitting on a blanket under a tree in the park. Or, just forget the pasta and eat the perfectly seasoned chopped tomatoes out of a bowl with a spoon!
No-Cook Tomato Sauce
5-6 medium tomatoes will yield approximately 2 cups of sauce
- Core and coarsely chop tomatoes, reserving all juice. Add some sea salt, lots of black pepper and at least one clove of crushed garlic.
- Add some finely chopped fresh basil or mint and toss with a generous glug of fruity olive oil. Let sit for 15 minutes to 1 hour for the juices to release and mingle with the herbs and spices. Taste for a balance of flavors and adjust as needed.
- Approximately 2 generous cups of this flavorful sauce will nicely coat a pound of al dente linguine, fettuccine or bow ties, so toss away.
- A healthy sprinkling of grated Parmesan or tender, soft, fresh mozzarella would make this dish a little heartier.
- A few blanched green beans, and/or some toasted pine or walnuts will turn this from a side dish into a one-dish meal.
- This fresh tomato sauce is equally good tossed with toasted cubed bread, chopped cucumber and minced red onion.