Posted by Robin Kronsinsky
I've tried, but I can't seem to find the right way to describe my love of the farmers market. But I can say that a major source of that love comes from the wonderful people who sell the produce of their farms.
The food that I buy at the market always tastes better than store-bought goods, in part because it is grown or made locally, but also because the people who sell it know everything about their products. The farmers at the market are happy to be sharing both their harvest and their wisdom with you, and this makes for the sweetest food there is.
One of my fondest memories of the farmers market led to the making of my favorite sauce — a chunky, vegetable-filled tomato sauce created by my dear friend Caitlin and myself.
The sauce was made possible by the generous gift of a kind-hearted farmer. He was selling a large box of "seconds" tomatoes (tomatoes that became too juicy for their own good and split open, causing scar-like cracks to form) for $8.
Caitlin ran up to me as I was examining a bushel of Swiss chard, told me of the deal, and asked if I would make a tomato sauce with her. I couldn't imagine anything better, so we decided to carry the box back to school together — it was quite heavy with all the large, juicy tomatoes.
After telling the man behind the farm stand that we wished to buy the box, he asked us how we planned on using them. We told him that we planned to use them in a sauce, and he responded by giving us a whole extra box that he was keeping in his truck.
When we kindly refused, saying that we would not be able to carry them back to campus, he offered to deliver both the boxes in his truck after the market had ended.
We could hardly believe his kindness, and after attempting to politely refuse his offer, we accepted and made sure to buy a few bushels of fresh herbs from him to use in our sauce.
Once back in Caitlin's kitchen, two large boxes of incredibly colorful, somewhat gruesomely scarred tomatoes resting on the counter, we spent over an hour in reconstructive vegetable surgery, skinning and coring about 30 tomatoes.
Caitlin also had fresh garlic, peppers, zucchini and various types of carrots from the market. We diced all these vegetables to use for the sauce, along with onions from the grocery store.
Once we had about two pounds of luscious, sweet tomato guts prepped, we began to make the sauce. We didn't follow any recipes or plan what we were going to do. We started with a simple beginning — sautéing onions and garlic in oil — and added the rest of the ingredients step by step, ending with the tomatoes and red wine.
The sauce cooked for several hours, though we allowed ourselves many taste-testing spoonfuls. Once it had cooked down long enough, we had before us a hearty, heart-warming sauce. It was quite rich, thanks to red wine and fresh sage, but also had a beautiful lightness due to the extra-juicy tomatoes, fresh zucchini, fresh parsley and oregano.
Caitlin and I both stored a good portion of the sauce in the freezer (we had made a huge batch). I have been using it for months in several different dishes. It's delicious over pasta, served with breaded chicken or as a base for stews — I used it to make beef stew last week.
The afternoon of labor was absolutely worthwhile; the "seconds" sauce makes for delicious dishes and sweet memories.
•¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
•20-30 heirloom tomatoes (preferably "seconds" pick, but it is not a necessity - skinned, cored and cut into large chunks
•5 cloves of garlic - peeled and minced
•4-5 onions - chopped
•4-5 green bell peppers - diced
•5 carrots of different variety - chopped into small pieces
•4 medium-sized zucchinis - chopped into small pieces
•¼ cup each of fresh oregano, flat leaf Italian parsley and sage- roughly chopped
•¾ cup of dry red wine
•Sea salt, pepper
Sautee the onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft. Add the carrots and peppers and cook for five minutes. Add in the zucchini and sauté for another five minutes. Add generous pinches of salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes and whatever juices have escaped. Add all of the spices, plus another generous pinch of salt and pepper, then add the red wine.
Let the sauce simmer with the lid on for an hour. Remove the lid and summer for another 2-3 hours, until the sauce has cooked down to a thick, stew like consistency. At this point, the sauce may be blended to create a smooth pasta sauce, or left as a chunky vegetable sauce/stew.