Photo: Christian Lorenzini
When shopping at the farmers market I am always chit chatting and getting to know the farmers. After all they are the studs whose hard work, love and labor is going in to my food. It's always nice to show gratitude when you can. After having my own backyard garden for the last 12 or so years I understand the time, knowledge and dedication it takes to truly get things right. I feel so fortunate to have access to such beautiful organic produce out here in California, and after spending the first 40 years of my life in New England I know that this is not the case with everyone. My bottom line, I will say over and over again, is buy the best quality ingredients you can afford and cook real food. Hey a glass jar of organic tomato sauce was most likely harvested and processed at peak ripeness and nutrient density so go for it and call it a day...just be sure to read the label as you just never know these days what scary ingredients get snuck into your foods.
When you do have access to fresh, go for it. There's nothing quite like the taste of a tomato right off the vine, and it's a great way to get kids hooked. The sweetness is of no comparison to tomatoes from the grocery store in NE in the dead of winter! I know as well as any that food shopping can get expensive so here's a tip for keeping things on the cheaper side. ALWAYS ask if the farmers have any seconds. Many times there are veggies with bumps and bruises that don't look the best, and the farmers don't want to display, but they are easily remedied with a little kitchen love. I get my tomatoes half price, and I always go home and make (well, within a few days) a big batch of homemade tomato sauce and freeze it. Last night I was able to bang out a quick "Chicken Parm" for 16 in less than an hour due to my planning ahead! It was a great way to fill the kids up with a healthy yummy dinner before trick or treating!!
If you do live in the colder climates, take advantage of the fresh produce in the summer, and freeze what you can. You will be forever grateful to enjoy a burst of summer during the cold winter months! Try this sauce over boneless thighs or chicken breasts; top with a blend of cheeses and pop in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour. If you are using raw cheese and want to preserve the enzymes, just grate it on top upon removing from the oven. If not turn the oven to broil for the last few minutes to create a nice crispy, bubbling cheesy top!
25 fresh tomatoes quartered
6-8 onions, quartered
10 cloves garlic, smashed
2 handfuls fresh herbs, chopped (if you don't have all fresh throw in some dried)
1/4 cup ghee, lard, coconut oil or olive oil, melted
Sea salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large roasting pan, mix the tomatoes, onions garlic and herbs with the melted fat. Season generously with sea salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, gently stir, then cook for another 15-30 minutes. Leave as a chunky sauce, or zap with the immersion blender for a smooth one.