Praise be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon
and the stars, in heaven you formed them
clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather through which
You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night and he is beautiful
and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains us and governs us and who produces
varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
-An excerpt from Canticle of Brother Sun, St. Francis of Assisi
Man do I love Francis of Assisi. His passion and insight into nature touches us all, regardless of religion. With summer rolling forward and school over for the moment, it is time to embrace the fruits of sister mother earth that sustain us, in their purest, because we can.
It is difficult to want to cook inside right now, layering flavor upon flavor, slaving over a hot stove not because the bounty is not inspiring nor the flavors fascinating, but because on their own or barely dressed the fruits of summer are so very perfect. In this part of my world, the flavors of the fruits of the earth explode on the tongue in a passionate dance. Tomatoes are coming and when they do, you have a mission. Eat them in their simplest form with me!
If I am not eating a tomato sliced in half liberally sprinkled with some sea salt, there are some nice and easy ways to highlight the bright flavors of this delightful fruit that are worth the time.
Last summer I used some nice Amish reds and canned tomato soup with a delicious (though technically not canning approved…so I won’t taunt you much more) heirloom recipe from a coworker that was creamy and delicious.
Every summer I go crazy for Tomato and Mozzarella di Bufala Caprese Salad made with hearty beefsteaks and fresh Mozzarella di Bufala or cream-filled Burrata from Pennsylvania Macaroni in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. Oh to die for!
And if you find yourself with some extra, you can roast some nice cherry tomatoes. This way they are perfect to smother all over a pizza crust or toss with a nice linguine. They also freeze nicely in a ziploc bag, air squeezed out and doused in a green and vibrant olive oil. This I do every year to enjoy the fresh taste the year round.
Now one recipe I do use the tomato for year round is pasta sauce. I have tried and developed many sauces over years, including my families’ own heritage recipe and must say that this sauce, if used with whole plum tomatoes, fresh or fresh-canned, is one of the best and seriously sublime. Silky, fresh flavors are best served with a wider noodle, sprinkled with some Pecorino Romano cheese for a touch of salt and brine and a wedge of focaccia to sop us any leftover juices. You won’t want to leave any behind, trust me.
In keeping with the heart of the canticle of Francis of Assisi let us respect the sustainability of the tomato and the laws that nature puts in place to guard our overconsumption and if we can, let us use homegrown or farmer’s market tomatoes for this project. They are the best tasting and the most likely to have been grown using a respect for nature in mind.
- 1 28 ounce can of whole plum tomatoes in their juices or 10-12 (about 2 pounds) freshly blanched plum tomatoes (see instructions below), skins removed
- 1/2 an onion
- 3 sprigs of thyme or about 2 tsp
- 2 Tbsp butter and 2 Tbsp of a nice bright and verdant extra virgin olive oil
- sea or kosher salt to taste
- a pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes to dress if you wish
- 12 oz box of whole wheat linguini or pasta of choice
- Sift through your tomatoes. Make sure that there are no hard bits. Chop off ends where the tomato was attached to the vine. Place tomatoes, juices and onion in blender. Puree until they form a nice crushed consistency, relatively smooth with consistently sized pieces throughout.
- In a small dutch oven or large saucepan, add butter, oil and thyme. Heat thyme with butter until sizzling.
- Add tomato and onion mixture. Heat over medium until warmed through, or about 10 minutes.
- Add a 1/4 tsp salt. Keep adding salt, 1/4 a tsp at a time until the flavors of the tomato burst. Salt can really make the difference, bringing out the flavor of the tomato so don't skip this part. I can add anywhere from 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp depending on the tomato and how much cheese I wish to add. This is something you really want to develop a taste for.
- In a larger pan, bring about 8 quarts of water and a pinch of salt to a rolling boil. Add pasta and cook according to the time on the box.
- Drain pasta and add to sauce in pan. Toss. Serve in bowls with cheese and red pepper seeds (optional). I like it hot.
- How to blanch your tomatoes - Assemble your tomatoes. Wash them to make sure they are free of dirt and mud. Score the skin of each tomato by making an "x" on the end of the tip of the plum tomato (the end that was not connected to the vine).
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Add tomatoes to the pot of boiling water and keep in for about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.
- Take out one by one and plunge into a bowl of ice water. Remove one at a time and peel. The skins should come off relatively easy now.
- Place peeled tomatoes in another bowl to wait to be used in this delicious recipe. They may be refrigerated for a few days or frozen this way.