One of three harvest baskets full!

What’s Cooking: Smelter Stomp Red Sauce

One of three harvest baskets full! One of three harvest baskets full!

One windy evening two weeks ago, I raced darkness and plummeting temperatures to harvest the remaining tomatoes from the kitchen garden at Terraphilia. I picked both ripe fruits and green ones large enough to ripen inside over the next few months.

Back in the house, I thawed my hands and weighed the overflowing baskets of fruit: seven plants yielded 26 pounds of tomatoes, ten of those from a single Pompeii Roma plant.

(Thanks to Renee’s Garden Seeds for the productive and delicious tomato varieties, including Pompeii Roma, Marvel Stripe, Persimmon, Stupice, Black Krim and Yellow Pear. Renee Shepherd finds, develops and sells the best-ever tomato varieties. Her seeds are either organic or produced sustainably.)

Ripe Pompeii Roma tomatoes ready to be chunked for sauce. Ripe Pompeii Roma tomatoes ready to be chunked for sauce.

Last week, I moved all of those tomatoes to Creek House, the ripe ones in two large split-ash harvest baskets, the green ones in a large paper shopping bag. I figured I’d use the Romas make red sauce for winter.

Only they sat on the counter getting riper. I wondered what I had been thinking. Cook? It’s been months since I had time and energy to cook regularly.

The past few weeks have been especially grueling. Most days I’ve worked straight through from the time I get up (about five am) to the time I fall into bed. (Thank heavens for  the deli at nearby Plougboy Local Market, without which I’d starve!)

But last night, my brain was too fried to work on the presentation for the workshop I’m co-leading at the Women Writing the West Conference in Kansas City this weekend. And I didn’t think the ripe Romas would keep until I returned.

Herbs, garlic, red wine and olive oil (not pictured) plus tomatoes and a little salt are all you need for a great basic red sauce. Good herbs, garlic, red wine and olive oil plus tomatoes and a little salt are all you need for a great basic red sauce.

So I dragged a stool to the kitchen island, rooted for the last few heads of garlic harvested from the Terraphilia kitchen garden, poured organic olive oil into my wok, minced and sautéed the garlic, and then began to chunk tomatoes to add to it, simmering them with herbs and some leftover red wine I’d saved.

An hour later, the kitchen smelled great, I was more relaxed than I’ve been in weeks, and I had two quarts of Smelter Stomp Red Sauce made largely from local ingredients: the garlic and tomatoes from my former garden, the herb mix from Savory Spice in Denver, and the leftover wine from Vino Salida, my neighbors’ artisan winery. (Smelter Stomp Merlot is a full-bodied red wine made from grapes that are hand-stomped–correction, “foot-stomped”–by volunteers.)

Here’s the recipe:

Smelter Stomp Red Sauce
5 cloves garlic
2 T olive oil
5 pounds ripe Roma tomatoes
2 tsp Cantanzaro herbs (includes dried lemon rind, marjoram, oregano, basil and garlic)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup leftover red wine, the heartier the better

Smelter Stomp Red Sauce in jars Smelter Stomp Red Sauce in jars

Mince garlic. Saute gently in olive oil in a 4-quart non-reactive sauce pan. Chop tomatoes coarsely and add to olive oil. Simmer and add spices, salt and wine. Simmer for about an hour, cool, and ladle into freezer-safe containers and freeze. Delicious over pasta, with vegetables and chicken, over rice and quinoa, and also with mild-flavored fish. (Makes about 2 quarts, depending on how juicy your tomatoes are and long you simmer the sauce.)

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I didn’t have time to cook red sauce last night, just as I didn’t have time to write this blog post tonight. (It’s late. I’m tired. I drove almost 400 miles today and have to get up early to drive across Kansas.)

But cooking and writing are two ways I love this life and this world. And love is something we can use more of, especially right now. It’s our species best gift. We just forget how to live it.

I wanted to share that realization with you. That’s love.

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