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Get sauced

Attack you tomato harvest with a killer sauce recipe

Ari LeVaux, More Content Now | 10/6/2017, 6 a.m.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a total of four movies about zombie tomatoes were produced. The first, “Attack ...
It is indeed possible to have too many tomatoes, depending on the company you keep. Ari Levaux

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a total of four movies about zombie tomatoes were produced. The first, “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!,” spawned three sequels: “Return of the Killer Tomatoes!,” “Killer Tomatoes Strike Back!” and, my personal favorite: “Killer Tomatoes Eat France,” wherein I vicariously fulfill a fantasy of mine. The plots of these movies were thinly-veiled attempts to tap-dance around the idea that, deep down inside, tomatoes can be relentless.

To the person who just paid $3.50 for a splotched, cracked heirloom, the idea of running away from tomatoes may seem quaint. You might even clench an imaginary paring knife as you feel yourself mouthing the challenge, “Come at me bro.”

But I want to state clearly for the record that it is indeed possible to have too many tomatoes, depending on the company you keep. I’ve got a friend, a vendor at the farmer’s market who is so aggressively grumpy he leaves me little choice but to call him Mr. Sunshine. He’s got a gift for tomatoes that borders on the supernatural, and he brings stacks of boxes each week, flush with sports-car-red tomato fruits, and sells them at a price that’s hard to refuse, giving zero effs about the grumblings of other growers. And at the end of market, rather than load his tomatoes back in the truck, the price drops even further.

There’s nothing like a 20-pound box of tomatoes, ripening in your kitchen, to make you feel the weight of the ticking clock, and by extension your own mortality. Or the inadequacy of your tomato processing skills, and by extension your value as a person.

Luckily, I’ve developed a way of dealing with any amount of tomatoes that’s about as easy as it gets. I make an oven-roasted tomato sauce that can incorporate a variety of garden vegetables in moderation. It is so easy, versatile and satisfying that even with Mr. Sunshine practically paying me to take away his tomatoes, there is no such thing as too many.

Ari LeVaux writes Flash in the Pan, a syndicated weekly food column that’s appeared in more than 50 newspapers in 25 states. Ari lives in Montana and New Mexico and can be reached at flash@flashinthepan.net.

Zombie Sauce

Tomatoes

Vegetables (onions, garlic, zucchini, sweet peppers, carrots, eggplant)

Salt

Olive oil

Cut large tomatoes in half to speed the process, but you can leave small and even medium tomatoes whole. Lay them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt, drizzle with olive oil, and bake at 350.

While that is happening, prepare your veggies. Slice the onions, peel the garlic, grate the carrots, chop the peppers and zucchini. You can include any combination of these ingredients, but they must not amount to more than 25 percent of the total amount of materials, with tomatoes being the 75 percent majority.

When the tomatoes have begun to cook down, filling the pan with dilute juice that simmers around the collapsing orbs, gently add the vegetables, folding them in. Continue cooking another 30 minutes.

Turn off the oven and allow the sauce to cool with the oven. Transfer contents of the tray(s) to a large mixing bowl, and puree with an immersion blender (alternatively, use a blender or food processor).

Transfer the sauce to quart-sized freezer bags.

When it’s time to use your sauce, customize it however is necessary, adding oregano, vodka, red wine, Italian seasonings or whatever you need to get it where you want to go. It is a tomato-flavored blank slate onto which you can paint any design you can imagine. You can also use this product as a stealth ingredient. I add a hit of it to my bone broth, and to my coconut curry, and my green chile stew. Though none of these are dishes that make you think “tomato sauce,” they do usually contain tomatoes, and the sauce does the job. It just goes to show: They are everywhere, but they can be handled.