Memories of Summer: ‘Organic Enough’ Red Tomato Sauce, Frederick the Mouse, and Should You Buy Small and Local Whenever You Can?

by Leah Hadad on October 21, 2010

Memories of Summer: ‘Organic Enough’ Red Tomato Sauce, Frederick the Mouse, and Should You Buy Small and Local Whenever You Can?

Last week I awoke to a beautiful, slate gray morning, and a constant drizzle. It was the kind of dark, wet day that could make one frown and go back under the covers.   But I come from people who pray for rain, and the day brought with it a shift in energy that renewed and lifted my spirit. So, on my way to a morning class, I found myself smiling irresistibly while tiptoeing between the puddles, a childhood song humming in my head. In this song, we beseech the first rain to hurry down to water the garden.  My garden here desperately needed this watering.  Still, the grayness made me think of summer’s vivid colors, and what is more reminiscent of summer days then the deep red of a sun-ripened tomato? OK, maybe the yellow of a sunflower.

I try to create joyous moments for my children whenever I can.  Simple or elaborate, food is one affordable way to do it.   Good company, delicious food, and a beautifully set table—all make for warm, long-lasting memories, even after the specifics of a meal have faded away. I put a lot of effort into bringing this kind of experience to my family.  But I also do it for myself.  I started cooking as a child and, for me, cooking still can be creative and therapeutic.  It’s a complete sensory experience, and, when I allow, it anchors me in the moment.   I like to experiment and I don’t always use recipes. I develop them as an organic extension of my moods, feelings, and events in my life.  It is this incorporation that makes it all possible, considering my hectic schedule.

Memories of summer bring to mind one of my favorite children books: Frederick, by Leo Lionni.  Unlike his fellow mice, which toil all summer long to stock up with food for the cold, dreary days of winter, Frederick gathers sunrays and colors.  When the food supply is depleted in the dead of winter, the shivering, hungry mice ask Frederick for his share.  Frederick, with the gift of his warm and colorful words, delivers his memories of summer to comfort them.  It turned out Frederick was a poet.  This winter-like day brought memories of the sauce I cooked from tomatoes bought at the side of the road on the way back from the beach in mid-August.

While on a ten-mile crawl from the beach town on the way home, I announced that we must stop to buy tomatoes from one of the farm stands dotting the roadside.  We went past large farm stands, and stopped at a makeshift stand, where a lone elderly man was shuffling and milling around, arranging his produce.  ‘Is it organic?’ I asked, pointing to the heap of tomatoes.  The man looked at me quizzically.  ‘Do you use pesticides?’ I elaborated.  Gesturing at his house, he answered, ‘I do nothing, I just grow them back there…’ ‘Well, that’s organic enough for me,’ I exclaimed.  Taking care to weed out the rotten ones, he helped me transfer about eight pounds of red, ripe tomatoes into an old plastic bag.  Back home, the kids and I gobbled some of the tomatoes whole, and left about six pounds of tomatoes.  So I had to hurry up and make the sauce before they all disappeared.  Luxurious simplicity seems a contradiction in terms until you taste a homemade tomato sauce.

Poetry is made from the things of the ‘every day.’  The ‘Frederick’ is to be found in each of us.

TIPS:

While I did not work from a recipe, I knew exactly which ingredients I wanted. Experiment!  See which flavors you like in your sauce.  I like it simple, and it’s delicious. If you prefer to cook with a recipe in hand, the web is full of them.  Just keep some of these tips in mind. Be creative, have fun with it.

*OLIVE OIL

My sauce always begins with a good organic extra virgin olive oil, first cold press.  Olive oil is one of the products I try to buy organic.

*TOMATOES

Peeling the tomatoes is just as important.  Do this first.  An easy method is to cut a cross on the bottom of each tomato and drop it in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes.  Once cooled, the skin would peel off easily.

*ONION/GARLIC

I like the flavor onion and garlic impart to a tomato sauce, but a little bit goes a long way, and neither is necessary.  If you use either, make sure you dice thinly and sauté till translucent.  It is imperative not to burn the garlic, or you will end up with a bitter sauce.

*WINE

I add white wine to my sauce, always!

*SUGAR

Make sure to add a pinch of sugar to balance the acidity of the tomato.

*SEASONING

I add salt.  It binds all flavors together.  If you don’t add salt to food, add more of the garlic, onion, and herbs.  I like at times to add a dash of redpepper flakes.  I find it adds depth to the flavor.

*SIMMERING

A long-simmering sauce  is rich, thick, and it’s flavor complex.  A shortsimmer makes for a lighter sauce that brings out the tomatoes’ sweetness.

*MORE

Taste it and see if you would like to add anything else:  basil, a dash of hot red pepper flakes, or balsamic vinegar.  We like it served with a sprinkle oftablespoon or two of good parmesan.

Inspire and Be Inspired!

Memories of Summer: ‘Organic Enough’ Red Tomato Sauce, Frederick the Mouse, and Should You Buy Small and Local Whenever You Can?

Memories of Summer: ‘Organic Enough’ Red Tomato Sauce, Frederick the Mouse, and Should You Buy Small and Local Whenever You Can?

Memories of Summer: ‘Organic Enough’ Red Tomato Sauce, Frederick the Mouse, and Should You Buy Small and Local Whenever You Can?

Memories of Summer: ‘Organic Enough’ Red Tomato Sauce, Frederick the Mouse, and Should You Buy Small and Local Whenever You Can?

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