Blue Plate Special

A discussion of good food from all sorts of sources-- home, restaurants, friends' homes, street festivals and anywhere else that good food can be found.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Tomatoes and Basil

I made a great dinner last night at S&W Arms. We had prosciuto wrapped crenshaw melon slices, bow tie pasta with a sauce of red and orange cherry tomatoes and yellow pear tomatoes which I oven roasted with a few heads of garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper. I cut some fresh mozzarella cheese into small strips and added some torn fresh basil leaves and topped the whole thing off with paper thin slices of Parmesan. It turned out to be exactly what I wanted. Kind of a "Pasta Margherita," I guess. I served it with some roasted garlic-Parmesan French bread, which was also really good.


Farfalle with Roasted Tomato Sauce, Basil and Two Cheeses

Two-year-old Johnna helped me cook, too! She stood on a chair and pulled basil leaves off the stems with me, and then scooped them up and put them into the food processor so that I could make pesto with the remainder of the basil. I told her what all the ingredients were and let her taste them alone and then when it was all combined. She sucked on a lemon wedge while watching the ingredients whirl around in the processor bowl.

I always make pesto when I buy big bunches of basil at farmer's markets and then freeze it, sometimes in ice cube trays. It's very handy. I rarely eat it just as pesto, but use it to make really easy fresh tomato sauce. Pesto is just two cups of basil leaves (flowers, too, if they are in bloom,)a cup of olive oil, two medium cloves of garlic, a half cup of ground Parmesan, the juice of half a lemon, a dash of Tabasco sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Most recipes call for pine nuts, but I rarely use them, I don't find that they add enough to the sauce to make it worth the expense. Blanched almonds will work, too.

To make a fresh tomato sauce, just skin and seed the tomatoes, put a little olive oil in a pot, saute a bit of garlic in the oil, add the tomatoes, some Italian seasoning and a bit of water and cook it down. Puree it with a hand blender (if you want) and cook it down a bit farther. When it is as thick as you'd like it to be, add about half a teaspoon of sugar, a couple of tablespoons of the frozen pesto, a little anchovy paste is a great seasoning that adds a lot of depth of flavor and won't taste fishy, and season to taste with salt and pepper. It's particularly good on cheese ravioli and as pizza sauce.


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