Tomato transformations

A solid three hours of cooking, and I was ready for my man to make me dinner.

Blighted tomatoes never got so much respect.

Blighted tomatoes never got so much respect.

I dutifully experimented with my windfall of blighted tomatoes (except it’s not a ‘windfall’ if I’m the one who initiated it, by pulling the whole plant up by its roots? And in related lingering trauma, you have not seen true carnage until you’ve seen the ground matted with tiny orange Sungolds.)—making sauce. Three variations, plus tomato confit.

I learned about confit from a lovely French matron outside Paris. At the time I preferred cooking your hundred-ingredient Kashmiri curries, and didn’t know squat about French food. Making confit was a passionate affair, with plenty of smoke and bravado; the tomatoes reducing in a pan on high heat for as long as one could stand it in the kitchen, transmogrifying into a charred gold. It’s the sort of dish that cannot be done without disabling the smoke detector first.*

Thomas Keller’s version, however, is an Apollonian one, methodical and pure. You core, blanch, peel, halve, and seed your tomatoes; lay them cut-side-up in an olive-oiled baking dish; lay sprigs of thyme, add salt and pepper; and cook at 225 degrees until you remember they’re there again, maybe three hours. During which time the tomato thinks hard, transcends, transforms into the condensed taste of summer.

2. Cherry tomato sauce—The cherries sat around for a few days while I worried about skins, picturing myself blanching and peeling 200 tiny tomatoes. I hate running into tomato skins in sauce. Then a bright light in the musty old head, and I pureed them. Perfect. One version: preserved-lemon puttanesca, with two heads of garlic and three jalapenos for a quart of sauce. For the boldest company.

3. Broiled cherry tomatoes, pureed with fried garlic, parsley, basil, olive oil. So easy. Hope it keeps.

4. With mushrooms. Pureed orange Carolinas with the usual (see above), plus wine and dried aspen boletes that W. brought from Alaska.

* I have not gone to the lengths that Jeffry Steingarden has, attempting to disable his oven’s thermometer so he could get it past its natural inhibition about temperatures beyond 500 degrees. But I once dated a housefire-phobic man, and that was doomed from the start.

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One response to “Tomato transformations

  1. Pingback: The Year in Foraging « Madison Forager

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