All around our kitchen and dining room foods are awaiting drying, cooking, processing. The table under the sunniest window is covered with trays of red Anaheim chilies. Several bowls of assorted tomatoes became Italian sauce for the freezer last week (recipe follows). Apples from two of our trees, a Beverly Hills and a Gordon, are still good for eating out of hand but will also make applesauce for the freezer.
Very ripe blood oranges, the latest crop we’ve ever had here (it was a foggy, cool summer), became jars of marmalade, and some were dehydrated into chewy, tangy orange discs. I even made a small batch of blood orange curd – like lemon curd with oranges instead. Some juice saved in the freezer might become blood orange caramels if we don’t use it to make margaritas first!
The Anaheims, once they are completely dried, will be stored in jars, later to be made into enchilada sauce (will post recipe soon). They have a nice amount of heat, and lots of earthy flavor. Store-bought dried chilis work just as well – I buy them at our local Mexican markets.
All this cooking and gardening takes time; we have been so busy around here! But it’s a busy time of year. Just look at the birds and squirrels, harvesting and hiding acorns, which are abundant. Jim’s dad used to say that lots of acorns dropping means there will be a heavy rainy season. Keeping our fingers crossed. Monday night, we had unprecedented lightning and a thunderstorm, and a steady rain for 2 ½ hours. I stepped outside and did a rain dance, I was so happy. That’s our first rain in many months, and a dramatic opening to our rainy season.
We haven’t posted on this blog all summer, though Sarah keeps up on Instagram. So sorry, but we were busy with other projects as well: Sarah and her beloved, Jeff, got married here in April in a small family ceremony. We had a larger gathering last month here at our house with extended family and friends. So much goodness and fun. And Sarah and Jeff are expecting a baby in January! It’s a girl! Expect our blog to be filled with “expectant” energy these next few months. I’m sure that soon we’ll be posting recipes for busy parents, and maybe even baby foods….
Meanwhile, I’ve been squirreling away acorns too because I want to learn to make acorn meal. My friend Judy saved a bunch of acorns from the live oaks in her yard. Her acorns are quite a bit larger than ours, for some reason, which should make harvesting easier. They’re drying on screens now. In a later post, I’ll let you know how the process goes. We’re hoping to add acorn meal to breads or tortillas.
Nature gifts us these wonderful plants and foods. Using them, and cooking with them lets us receive those gifts. Thank you, Mother Nature, for everything.
Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
Make this exquisite sauce with fresh tomatoes at the end of the summer season, when tomatoes are incredibly sweet. I freeze the sauce in small freezer boxes and have it to use all winter. But you can make this with canned tomatoes in the winter when great tomatoes are not available. I’ve slightly adapted this recipe from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking with Marcella Hazan, my Italian cooking bible. You will need a hand-cranked food mill, a very useful and inexpensive tool, which easily removes both the seeds and the tomato skin. Recipe can be doubled or tripled or more…
I’ve used all kind of tomatoes to make this sauce. This summer I grew San Marzano’s, so used a lot of those, but I added Early Girl’s and Sungold cherry tomatoes as well. Many times, I’ve used other heirlooms. What you want is ripe, and sweet.
Enough to sauce 1–1 ½-lbs. pasta
2 lbs. fresh, ripe tomatoes, halved or quartered, or 1–28-oz. can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, peeled and halved
Large sprig of fresh basil, optional
Sea salt to taste
Place tomatoes in a wide saucepan with deep sides, along with the butter and onion, and optional basil. If using fresh tomatoes, pour in a few Tbs. of water to get sauce started. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a steady simmer, covered. Stir from time to time, reducing heat if it sticks. Cook for about 45 minutes or until the fat floats free from the tomatoes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Using the smallest blade of the food mill, pass the tomato mixture through it, scraping pulp occasionally off the back side of the blade and into the finished sauce pot. You can stop to push the tomato pieces, onion, and basil under the whirligig as you work. Discard the seeds and pulp.
Taste finished sauce, and season with salt if desired. Freeze sauce for later use, or reheat and toss with freshly cooked pasta.
Variation: You can use half butter and half olive oil, or substitute 3 Tbsp. olive oil for the butter.