Post By darwin’s lair
For me, it does not truly feel like summer until I am making red sauce, fresh, with ingredients from my own home garden.
After being away up north for a week, I found the Sasha’s Altai holding a few full trusses of ripe tomatoes. Before we had left, a week ago, there were a half dozen tomatoes blushing which I had picked and taken along, but they were simply sliced and eaten as they ripened. These were enticing. Seductive. Each cluster holding wonderfully red, and slightly soft to the touch, beautiful tomatoes. Two of them even cracked along their side when I picked them.
It is a habit of mine, whenever I make tomato sauces, to save the seeds. Of course I end up with far more than I would ever need, but how can any real gardener ever have too many seeds? All you need is some clean bowls, a sharp knife, and a jar with a label and a cap.
First, you slice the tomato in half, then you just look at it and marvel at how wonderfully it is put together, imagine what it will taste like (if you can resist biting into it right then) and then (if you are me) you take a photo.
Gently, so as not to destroy the meat of the tomato, I squeeze and coax the seeds out of the tomato halves into one bowl, then dice the remaining tomato up into another.
Once I have seeded all of the tomatoes, the seeds are poured from the bowl into a clean jar, labeled with the date I put them in there, and the date to take them out.
I put the jar on the windowsill where it will be warm. Six days from now the gelatin coating on the seeds, which is a sprouting inhibitor, will have fermented off. The process of fermentation also generally gets rid of any disease issues if you have seed-borne pathogens in your soil. The seeds and liquid in the jar will be poured through a wire mesh strainer, scrubbed under running water, then spread over a ceramic plate which I put out of the way on a shelf over the stove, labeled, for at least a week to ensure that they are completely dry. At that time I save some just in an envelope for next year, and the rest end up in an airtight container in the deep freeze.
But that aside, back to the large bowl of diced tomatoes I had once I was done seeding the tomatoes.
I have a large double boiler, with the pasta insert, so I don’t have to be dumping boiling hot water to drain my noodles. It is already boiling and steaming away on the stove and the water is fairly heavily salted (about 3 tablespoons in 2 gallons of water) which if you neglect to do, will leave you with some pretty bland pasta. Into that goes a pound and a half of dry linguini noodles. Immediately after, I put a high heat under a wok, pour in about a third of a cup of olive oil, 4 large crushed and diced garlic cloves (in this case, Hardy German, so it was a whole head of garlic) which I left alone in the oil for only about 20 seconds before adding all of the diced tomato. Gently (and I do mean gently) I turn it into the olive oil and garlic with a large spoon. This is meant to be cooked softly enough that the skins do not slough off of the fruits. As soon as the olive oil and garlic are fairly distributed among the diced tomato, fresh herbs go in. Today, it was about 30 chopped leaves of sweet basil, 6 sprigs of Italian flat parsley, and a few sprigs of French thyme. A pinch of salt, a few turns with a pepper mill, the spoon again to fold in the herbs, turn the heat off, and let it sit.
By the time the pasta is done (about 5 minutes later) the herbs have wilted, tastes incorporated into the sauce, and their aroma permeates your entire home. Pasta is quickly drained (don’t let it just sit there) and then it goes into the serving bowl. Sauce is poured over the top, the bowl is proudly carried to the dining table, you all sit admiring it while allowing the juices to soak into the noodles (which if you do it just right, is when the noodles are actually finish cooking) after which you all stuff yourselves.