So my last living grandmother died this past weekend. Yes, I am sad, sad for her loss, sad for my Dad, sad for her partner of many years, Evan. But mostly sad that I didn’t know her better. My parents divorced when I was five, then for most of my childhood I didn’t see much of my Dad. That meant not seeing much of my grandmother. I would see her from time to time; she came up for a visit a few years back and we went on a river boat cruise together. My son, now eight, was an infant back then, and I have a sweet picture of her holding him. Neither of my kids had the opportunity to know her. I knew she loved to knit & crochet. I am lucky to have some of the things she made, blankets, the kitchen towels with crocheted tops you can attach to your refrigerator handle. But I am still sad. I wish I would have known some of her favorite foods. Or had a recipe I could hang on to of hers. I am working on a family recipe book and want to be sure she’s included.
So, with my head cloudy this morning, I proceed into the kitchen and donned my maternal Grandmother’s apron. I love being in the kitchen; its warm, comforting & the perfect place for me to be at this moment. A pile of tomatoes, lemon boys, Mr. Stripey, and a million red grape & yellow pear tomatoes had to be dealt with. I didn’t feel much like doing it, but I had procrastinated long enough. I wanted to make Tomato Jam, a recipe I found from Mark Bittman. It sounded so delicious and I thought the few red tomatoes I had would be good for that. I wanted to make sauce out of the Lemon Boys, I pictured a a bright yellow sauce that would be great on a cold winters day for pasta. So first, it was the Tomato Jam. I’m not real precise when it comes to things like this; I did follow his recipe, ingredient-wise, but not with my measurements. I used to be completely anal when it came to that. My husband always harassed me, so now I am more of a “toss a little in, taste, toss a little more”. I do have to say though, that this Tomato Jam is ridiculous! You have to make it. It only resulted in three small containers, but I will savor every drop of it. I have no idea how I am going to use it, but that’s for another day.
I then moved on to the sauce. Chunking up the Lemon boys (no, I didn’t blanch any of my tomatoes today….) I added about a 1/4 of a vidalia onion, chopped, a handful of fresh basil & oregano, roughly chopped, and two cloves of garlic. The way I look at sauce is this; you can always add more garlic etc. when you use it. Layer the flavors. With both sauces, I just let them bubble, for a good hour or so, tasting along the way until they were where I wanted them to be. I added a splash of my favorite balsamic vinegar (by bro-in-law brought home from Italy for us) And, like my husband says, “let er’ buck!” If that makes sense……
I had a huge bowl of red grape & yellow pear tomatoes as well. I tossed those with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic & good balsamic vinegar and let those go in the oven at 450 for thirty minutes and then at 350 for almost an hour. I made a few little pans of a yellow squash casserole, but I will post that later……yeah, I was in the kitchen all day. Good for the healing the soul…….
Once I had the sauces where I wanted them, I pushed them through a sieve, my least favorite part of the process. This takes some time & muscles, but the sauce is so much better for it. If I would have blanched the tomatoes to begin with, I probably could have just used the sauce as is.
The way I look at it is, life is like sauce. You start out as a seed, growing into a plump, juicy ripe tomato. So many possibilities, so many directions you can go. Sliced, raw, drizzled with balsamic nestled with some fresh mozz and basil…….sliced next to crisp romaine and applewood smoked bacon on a BLT……or in my case, the perfect ending; sauce. Chopped, simmered, reduced, magic.