Friday, October 25, 2013

Plain tomato sauce and, "You've Gotta Have Heart"

Late season fruits are the sweetest... I turned the last tomatoes of the summer into a plain, sweet sauce that I can use through the winter. And, organ meats!

I've been asked by people who want to eat more healthfully, for advice on selecting produce. The good news is that we can all do it. If there's one thing human beings have been doing forever, it's picking out what's best to eat. A school of thought in personal nutrition that has always fascinated me are the Instinctos, or Anopsologists, who always eat their foods singly---there is no Instincto "cuisine"---as well as fresh and raw. They choose their nutrition, one food at a time, and eat it until they no longer want it. This is the way I'd advise you to select your fresh foods, at least as a starting point. Be a human animal, first: if it helps, pretend you're a gorilla, or a chimpanzee. Look for what catches your eyes. Pick it up and weigh it in your hand. Prod it gently with a finger. Give the bunch of celery or melon or whatever it is a sniff. Do you want to eat it? Put it in your basket.
Beef heart stew

I was late to the fields this tomato season, so I only got one unlimited harvest. By then, most of the fruit was on the ground. The one kind of tomato that was most plentiful was a small, orange variety that was similar enough to last year's golden tomatoes, which made a wonderful sauce, that I was willing to take some risks to get some home. The other shareholders were avoiding these tomatoes, for being on the ground, but I got down and started gathering. If it felt firm like a grape, I picked it up for further inspection. If it was especially dirty, I'd wipe off the dirt so I could check it for bug holes. I was looking for an unbroken skin, no bruises, and especially no round marks, indicating that a bug had made its way in and might still be inside---it or its offspring. If the tomato met all those requirements, I put it in my bag.

At home, I dumped them all into a sink full of water and started washing and sorting. Some tomatoes got squished on the way home, so they went into the compost bucket. I gently rubbed each fruit's firm skin with my palms and fingertips to get the dirt off, and removed the stems, then set the clean tomato in a colander to drip.

From top: Red dal (see link for recipe), spinach sauteed with garlic,
well cooked broccoli, and roasted sweet potato with butter
In batches, I ran the tomatoes through the food processor, then into a big pot on the stove to simmer. I added a generous glug of red wine and one of olive oil, and a little salt, and let it cook for several hours. The resulting sauce was thick like jelly. And when I say it was sweet, I mean that I didn't even use onion, and the sauce was still nearly as sweet as store bought. That's vine ripened sweetness for you.

I let the tomato sauce cool, then bagged it in cups and quarts for freezing. Some of it I used right away in place of fresh or canned tomatoes: in the red dal in the photo above, and in a stew of beef heart, turnip, and kohlrabi that we're eating right now. Like the beef tongue I posted about last time, heart makes good stewing meat, and is very cheap. This heart was given to us by the farmer when we picked up our order---some people don't like the organs and just won't take them. Honestly, I'm not crazy about kidneys or livers, and I've never tried brain, but heart and tongue are muscle: a good starting place if you're just trying organ meats for the first time. They cook up like beef and are lean, but become tender with stewing. Heart has a touch of that organ-y taste that liver and kidney have, but not much. I'm surprised beef hearts haven't caught on more, especially with the Paleo crowd.