Fresh Tomato Sauce

The summer might be winding down but that hasn’t stopped our garden. We’ve been harvesting a decent amount of tomatoes for weeks and with only two tomato plants. Jeff made this sauce last week, then again the other day because, wow, it is amazing! Actually the real magic here is what he accomplished with those Big Boy red tomatoes you see below. This is the first time we’ve grown them and they really don’t taste as good as heirloom tomatoes. We were both pretty disappointed because we have so many, what to do with all these just-ok-flavored tomatoes? When he made the sauce he added some dried cherry tomatoes, (we’re still drying and freezing many of them), and that really made this the best tomato sauce I’ve ever had. I was really impressed and wanted to share this recipe with all of you. He tasted and altered quite a bit, so feel free to improvise the flavoring with fresh herbs and adding more olive oil as needed, but the dried tomatoes are a must for flavor! I had so much fun taking photos for this post, it’s tricky for me to cook and be behind the camera at the same time, so I really enjoyed just photographing the process. Thank you Jeff!

Fresh Tomato Sauce

  • 4 lbs tomatoes, blanched, seeded, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried tomatoes, chopped finely
  • 3 cipollini onions, chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic, about 5 cloves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil + 2 later
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, about 1/4 cup, chopped
  • 20 fresh oregano leaves, about 1-2 tablespoons, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

To blanch the tomatoes, cut an x in the bottom of each tomato, place in a large pot of boiling water for a minute or so until you see the skin fall away, remove with a strainer and place tomatoes in ice bath to cool. When cool enough to handle remove skins, slice in half and remove seeds.

Heat olive oil over medium heat, add onions and garlic and cook until just golden and fragrant. Stir in tomato paste, a bit of the herbs, some salt and pepper, then cook a few minutes stirring frequently. Add the blanched and chopped tomatoes, the rest of the herbs and chopped dried tomatoes. Add the 2 tablespoons additional olive oil. Bring to simmer and stir often, if the tomato pieces are too big, break them down with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour on low, stirring occasionally, season as needed, adding more herbs, olive oil or tomato paste. Yields about 3 cups of sauce.

Sesame Noodles with Cucumber

This is the second time I’ve made these noodles and I just love them (thank you Smitten Kitchen!). We had them last night with some grilled salmon, they make a perfect side dish especially during these hot days. I haven’t cooked with Soba noodles for so long and I don’t know why because I’m crazy about them, they don’t seem to overwhelm me the way a flour pasta can, there’s something good in that buckwheat! They’re a healthy alternative to traditional pasta and, I’m not big on the gluten-free craze, but they are gluten-free. I found a nice post on how to cook Soba noodles over at Food 52, it recommended not only rinsing the noodles when they’re done, but tossing them in a cold water bath as well to help remove the starch. I did that this time and I think it works well. The recipe is near perfect, although I wish the sauce wasn’t so thick, it takes quite a bit of tossing to really integrate with the noodles, maybe more rice vinegar and sesame oil? And possibly a splash of fish sauce would work as well, I’m so scared of fish sauce, I don’t know why because when I eat Thai food that has fish sauce I don’t notice it all and it really pumps up the flavors. Oh, and you can make this ahead and refrigerate, it tastes just as good the next day! 

Sesame Noodles with Cucumber

  • 9 ounces Soba Noodles
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, plus a splash to loosen noodles
  • 2 tablespoons Tahini (see note up top)
  • 1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated or brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (from 1 medium-large clove)
  • 2-3 teaspoons Chili-garlic paste (I used 3 teaspoons which gave it just a little bit of heat)
  • 1/2 pound cucumber, very thinly sliced or julienned 
  • 1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • A handful of chopped fresh herbs, such as mint and cilantro, for garnish

Place Soba noodles in pot of boiling water and let simmer for about 5 minutes, taste for doneness, they should be firm but cooked and not too mushy, rinse under cold water and toss in large bowl with cold water, rinse again and drain, then place in bowl and toss with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil to keep them from sticking, allow to cool. 

Meanwhile, whisk tahini and peanut butter in a small bowl, then whisk in soy sauce, rice vinegar, remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil, sugar, ginger, garlic and chile-garlic paste until smooth. Adjust flavors to taste. Toss sauce with cold noodles. Top with crushed peanuts, cucumber and cilantro.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

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