Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fresh Raw Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Herbs

Plate of Shiritaki noodles with Fresh Tomato Sauce
Traditionally Served at Room Temperature

Recipe by Bruce and Robin

While perusing cookbooks and recipe websites I often get the impression that Bruce and I like garlic and herbs more than the average person. Such was the case this week when we researched fresh tomato sauce. America’s Test Kitchen wizard Christopher Kimball fries up garlic in quite a bit of oil, but strains out the garlic and adds only the oil to his sauce. Spendid Table’s food maven Lynn Rosetto Kasper rubs the serving bowl with a clove of garlic, but then discards it before adding the tomatoes. Many recipes use no garlic whatsoever. We wondered: what would happen if we just minced up some garlic and threw it into the mix? So we tried it with two small cloves.

Chopped Tomatoes, Minced Herbs, Minced Garlic, Olive Oil and Pepper
Healthy Raw Ingredients
Bruce remembered that Middle Eastern chefs pour salt over raw garlic and mince them both together to reduce the raw garlic “bite.” This technique worked perfectly to mellow the garlic on the first night. The next night leftovers were more garlicky in taste and smell. We worked around this by draining the liquid and heating the pasta and sauce in the microwave. Of course, the sauce was no longer raw, but it was delicious. Another work-around would be to serve enough people the first night to finish the sauce.

Fresh herbs are an important component of this raw, fresh sauce. Don’t use dried. In addition to basil, you can use any of these that you have on hand: oregano, marjoram, chives, parsley, Thai basil, thyme (small amount) or even mint. We bumped up the amount of herbs compared with most recipes.

Use the freshest local tomatoes that you can find. Since this dish is so simple, you can maximize its flavor and color-appeal by using several types of tomatoes. A combination of cherry tomatoes, heirlooms, and firm tomatoes such as plum tomatoes or dry farmed Early Girls will serve you well. Just about any combination of fresh local tomatoes is worth trying.

Bowl of Tomatoes Topped with Herbs and Garlic
Toss and Serve
This sauce is rather delicate compared with cooked tomato sauces, so plan your pasta accordingly. Rice noodles and lighter wheat pastas, like angel hair, are compatible. Whole wheat penne is not. We used fettucini-style shiritaki noodles, and agreed that lighter angel hair shiritaki noodles would be even better.

A few words about liquids: You can choose to drain excess liquid from the tomatoes before adding the other ingredients, or not. Your choice depends upon the juiciness of your tomatoes as well as your personal preference. The amount of olive oil that you use is also a matter of preference. We used a minimal amount (2 tbsp.) for just a hint of flavor and texture. Other recipes use up to 1 cup. Try adding it by the tablespoon until you reach the combination that resonates with you.

Go ahead and adjust the amount of garlic and herbs as you like it. Maybe you want to create an even bolder dish than we did!

Bowl of Completed Pasta Sauce
Ready for Pasta and Parmesan
Fresh Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Herbs
serves 4 - 6

1 – 2 cloves garlic (depends on size)
½ tsp. salt
2 ½ - 3 lbs. mixed ripe tomatoes
2 tbsp. finely chopped basil
1 ½ tsp. finely chopped chives
1 tsp. finely chopped Greek oregano
2 tbsp. or more fruity olive oil
~ ¼ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
Thin rice noodles or angel hair pasta
~ ½ cup – 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Demo of mincing and crushing garlic with salt
Chop and Crush Together
Several Times Until Finely Minced
Prepare 4 – 6 servings of light pasta such as rice noodles or angel hair pasta according to package directions. Drain and allow to cool to room temperature.

Finely mince garlic with salt (see photo).

Dice tomatoes into ¼ - ½ inch pieces. Drain liquid if desired, or if there is a large quantity. Place tomatoes in serving bowl.

Add salt-minced garlic and finely chopped basil, chives, and oregano to tomatoes. Toss well. Stir in olive oil by the tablespoonful to taste. Season to taste with black pepper.

Serve tomato sauce at room temperature with rice noodles or pasta. Let diners “top their own” with grated Parmesan.

Served with Roasted Padron Peppers

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