30 July 2007
I really don't mind being a sucker for real tomatoes. I feel justified. Good tomatoes only exist for three months out of the year if you're very lucky. Terrible ones exist all the time. During the winter you may even be lulled into thinking they are real tomatoes. However, they are not, as you may notice when you try to economize during said summer and end up bringing home a vine of tasteless, watery lumps.
I really need to just can fifty jars of sauce. If we had tomato plants, especially ones that thrived in heavily alkaline soil inundated by eucalyptus every five minutes and also came with squirrel zapping ability, I could do that. I could do it anyway if I bought a flat of decent tomatoes while they're still in existence. Maybe that will happen sometime in the future.
In the meantime, I just want to you know that my previous iteration of pomodoro was crap. Ok, it wasn't crap. It was fine. It was delicious and edible. The new one, in contrast, was freaking transcendent.
The whole key to pomodoro from good fresh tomatoes is patience. You have to let the tomatoes reduce. This will take a while, but it is worth it.
Let's talk about reducing tomatoes. It is easy but crucial. I remember for instance a food-oriented party that my friend Ryan gave several years ago. Ryan always made the most perfect food for his parties, and we'd all end up wielding ancient knives around the kitchen while helping prep. On this particular occasion the food was mussels with an onion and tomato reduction. Since there were both onions and tomatoes involved, the reducing time was nearly an hour. There was some yelling at the pan involved. It was worth it, however, as eventually things melted down into beautiful goo, and Ryan threw in the mussels and some wine, and everything steamed perfectly in about two minutes, and Bethany, being then vegetarian, said "You have to have some, since I can't!" and I had some, and then I had more, and they were delicious. That was the first time I ever had mussels.
I did not have mussels in this case. Everything else, however, went pretty much according to that plan.
Transcendent, angelic, benevolent and kind pasta al pomodoro
dry vermouth/ whichever wine you're drinking
First, warm a pan and add some olive oil. Peel some garlic; either leave it whole or slice it into big chunks. Throw the garlic into the oil and let cook while you chop up the tomato.
I used this entire pound and a half tomato just for me.
Core tomato(es) and cut out any ridgy bits of skin. If there are no bits, taste and make sure the tomato is decent. Real tomatoes are ridiculously bulgy and mutastic.
Chop the tomato into big chunks and put it in the pan with the oil and garlic. Stir it all up; raise the heat a little. Then let it sit.
Let it sit.
Let it sit. Add some pepper and salt and let it sit some more.
It took about fortyfive minutes for my tomato to go from big solid chunks to approximation of sauce. At about the half hour mark, or maybe a little before, start considering pasta. Put on the water for any slow-cooking chunky shapes; wait a little longer if you want angel hair. If you want mussels, may I suggest angel hair? May I also suggest at this point scrubbing, rinsing, and de-bearding any mussels you might have?
Put on the pasta; drain when done.
When your tomatoes have reduced enough to look puddly and lovely with occasional chunks of tomato mush, add some dry vermouth or wine. Also add mussels, if you want them. In that case I would put on the lid and cook until said mussels are done, i.e. until they all open, which will be in a very short time. I had no mussels, so I just stirred my vermouth into the tomato business and let it cook some more while the pasta finished. I had linguine.
Tear up some parsley and throw it into the sauce. Throw your pasta into the sauce and stir it all up. Now serve it and eat it.
I didn't even want parmesan with this, and would want it even less in the case of mussels. I would, however, want a good lot of wine. With sweet real tomatoes you can go either toward white or red wine really easily. It depends on what you feel like. What do you feel like?