Monday, August 07, 2006

pasta with raw tomato-basil-garlic sauce

i don't know about you but i dream of late summer all year round. not because of the long, lazy sun-filled days (we don't get many of those during the fog and windswept chilly days of a typical san francisco "summer"), nor because of school break ('cause i've long since finished my formal book 'larnin' days and am condemned to a meanly doled out two weeks of pooled vacation/sick days off each year), nor because of the much anticipated resumption of all those beloved tv sitcoms, dramas, and reality programs ('cause let's face it, it's mostly just garbage not fit for human consumption after all). no my friends. during the dark chilly mornings of february, as i reluctantly roll my creaky joints out of bed, i dream of.....tomatoes. red. ripe. juicy. sweet. firm. fleshy. succulent. heavenly. tomatoes.

the ironic thing is that i used to HATE tomatoes. those perfect little red globes dangling seductively on perfect green little vines so prettily displayed beneath flourescent lights in the local grocery store. oh the anger and the heartbreak when it is discovered that beneath the artifice lies nothing but a pale, anemic, slimy little heart with no flavor and no remose for the hideous deception. is it any wonder that i despised those treacherous little creatures?

but then, one glorious summer, i discovered the real thing. fresh off the plant. and i couldn't believe it. beneath the not quite perfectly spherical, not quite uniformly red, not quite as cosmetically pleasing exterior was an explosion of sweet, meaty, juicy, sunshine-y flavors. since then i've shunned all out of season tomatoes, relying instead on home-canned goods plucked at their summer freshest. or at least a good brand of store bought.

and so here is a super simple, no cook recipe for a pasta sauce that showcases the vibrant flavors of late summer at their best. beautiful tomatoes, pungent garlic and sweet italian basil combined into a raw sauce that'll give you a suntan just eating it. even if it is acold, foggy and windswept san francisco type of summer.

raw tomato sauce with garlic, basil and olive oil
a pile of the ripest, juiciest, reddest roma* tomatoes you can find
a handful of fresh, sweet italian basil, chopped
a good glug of lusty, fruity extra-virgin olive oil
at least a few cloves of raw garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
a smattering of diced kalamata olives, if you fancy 'em

coarsely chop the roma tomatoes into large chunks, removing seeds and placing in a colander. lightly salt the tomatoes and allow the juices to drain out a bit. after the tomatoes have expelled a bit of their juices, place in a blender or food processor with the minced garlic and chopped basil and pulse a few times until just a bit of texture remains. add a few glugs of olive oil and salt to taste. remove from blender and toss with cooked pasta (angel hair pasta and ravioli work particulary well with this sauce) and kalamata olives (if using).

*use romas if you can find them. they have the lowest water content and will produce a sauce that is less, um, watery with a more concentrated tomato flavor.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

brandied cherries

sorry for the long silence but bunnyfoot has entered the zone. no, not the zone diet, nothing quite that terrible. bunnyfoot has entered the canning zone.

i have a real-love hate relationship with canning. all those hours of long, hot, hard work over boiling water, scaldingly hot glass jars, the messy and tedious skinning of fruit and tomatoes, and the deep-seated suspicion that, despite my most anal precautions, any one of those festive-seeming jars could harbor the dreaded mr. botchulism in it's treacherous little heat-processed heart. but the love. ahhh the love. my heart goes pitter-patter when i hear those lids make that little popping sound as they a kitchen full of crickets. and on those dark, cold, rainy, winter days when i crack open a jar of summer-fresh, blazingly red, sweet-sweet tomatoes, i can feel the warm sunshine on my face and i actually reminisce fondly of these dog days of canning. and so i can. i can all i can stand. i can all summer long. and when i can i usually want to get out of the kitchen as quickly and as frequently as possible. which means indian takeout and not much bunnyfooting around. so my apologies for the silence, but you see, i couldn't really help it...

having already stashed away a rainbow of jams, i'm rolling up my sleeves in preparation for the dreaded tomato: tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, whole peeled tomatoes, who knows, maybe i'll even put down a few jars of salsa this year...

but this post is dedicated to the first of the summer's canning projects: brandied cherries. i must be honest with you, these did not quite turn out as i'd hoped. firstly, i was too lazy to pit the cherries. secondly, the heating of the fruit combined with the hot water bath made for a rather, um, soft, one might say flaccid, product. however they have tremendous potential as a brandied cherry sauce for vanilla ice cream or as a flavoring for mixed cocktails. would i make them again? hmmm, ask me in the dead of winter....

brandied cherries
6 lbs. dark, sweet cherries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/4 cup brandy

wash and pit the cherries, set aside. bring to a boil the sugar, water and lemon juice, then add fruit and reduce to a simmer, continuing to cook until cherries are hot. remove from heat and add brandy. pack cherries into hot, sterilized jars leaving about 1/2" headspace. ladle hot syrup to fill jars up to about 1/4" of the rim. remove airbubble (i do this by tapping the jar on the counter), clean rim, seal and process in a hot water bath for about 10 minutes. this should make about 6 pints.
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