We’re in the middle of a tomato glut. I’m doing my best to keep up, eating them morning, noon and night. Today I had a choice: set up a farm stand on our street, or start cooking.
Recently, The New York Times printed Julia Child’s recipe for tomato sauce. For some reason, (and I wish I could tell you why), we are having an extraordinarily prolific crop this year, despite sharing it with an extraordinarily prolific crop of chipmunks. One family was born in an overturned pot cozied- up next to the tomatoes. That is one smart mama chip.
I used six pounds of tomatoes, chopping them first in the food processor, then weighing them in a bowl. Julia’s recipes can be intimidating, but this is one of her easy ones!
Julia Child’s Provencale Tomato Sauce
¼ cup olive oil
⅔ cup finely minced yellow onions
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
5 to 6 pounds ripe tomatoes, quartered
⅛ teaspoon sugar, plus more to taste
4 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press
A large herb bouquet: 8 sprigs parsley, 1 bay leaf and 4 sprigs thyme, all tied in cheesecloth
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon dried basil, oregano, marjoram or savory
Large pinch saffron threads
1 dozen coriander seeds, lightly crushed
1 2-inch piece dried orange peel (or 1/2 teaspoon granules)
2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste (optional)
In a large heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with salt and cook slowly for about 10 minutes, until tender but not browned. Sprinkle on the flour and cook slowly for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally; do not brown.
Meanwhile, fit a food processor with the coarse grating blade. Working in batches to avoid overfilling the machine, push the tomatoes through the feed tube to make a coarse purée.
Stir the tomatoes, sugar, garlic, herb bouquet, fennel, basil, saffron, coriander, orange peel and 1 teaspoon salt into the pot. Cover and cook slowly for 10 minutes, so the tomatoes will render more of their juice. Then uncover and simmer for about an hour, until thick. The sauce is done when it tastes thoroughly cooked and is thick enough to form a mass in the spoon. Remove herb bouquet and taste. Season with salt, pepper, sugar and tomato paste, and simmer two minutes more.
Once the sauce cooled a bit, I put it through the fine disc of a food mill to separate the seeds. This step is worth the trouble. I was left with a velvety pool of sauce, now squirreled away in the freezer. It will be the pièce de résistance for a feast on a bleak winter’s night.