I had a couple of handfuls of tomatillos sitting around, the last batch harvested at least two weeks ago. That was just a few days before the afternoon I finally pulled our tomatillo plants out of the ground, roots, cages and all, in preparation for starting some cooler weather vegetables in our garden beds.
I'd made a creamy salsa verde with some of them previously using my son's recipe, but I still had way too many on hand to easily use up the rest before they began to rot.
I thought I might quietly pitch them into the compost pile and call it a day. "Composting them is using them..." I mused.
The tomatillos knew better. "Zo what are you going to do wiz uz?" they taunted with a surprising French accent. "You cannot just throw uz ouwt, not even into ze compost pile!"
They had me there. I couldn't. Even pretending that I could summoned up visions of my Mother, who when she was alive would be urging me to eat whatever it was on my plate I was trying equally hard not to eat, saying "there are starving children in (fill in name of area that is recently war-torn, devastated by floods, or ravaged by drought) who would be happy to have those (fill in name of noxious vegetable currently triggering my gag reflex)."
Enter My Little Helper, the internet. After idly reading through a couple of "I am never, ever going to make that" posts (steamed devil's food cake, turnip, apple and jerusalem artichoke soup) at the Serious Eats site, I bumped into this - Roasted Tomato Sauce.
Easy peasy. You cut stuff up, oil it, roast it, blend it, then eat it on pasta. According to the blurb, this was a great way to use up those end of season tomatoes that might be a bit past their prime.
Ha. I should be so lucky to have end of season, much less any tomatoes sitting around in excess, moving past their prime. This year our garden has been pretty much a wash out, tomato production wise.
But I did have these perplexingly French accented tomatillos sitting around. And they were most definitely about to cross that thin green line between fresh garden produce and compost in development.
I am no Alice Waters, but if she can launch an entire foodie movement by substituting in whatever is fresh (or in this case not-so-fresh) and on hand in order to make deliciously local food, I figured I could at least try to substitute in my tomatillos for tomatoes and come up with a passable pasta sauce.
I had some diminutive home grown onions to use up, a bit of garlic left from the CSA baskets of what now feels like a former lifetime, and a jalapeño that had developed a beautiful deep red color as it ripened. I had a couple of not so firm heirloom tomatoes that I paid good cash money for at the store, and I figured if I put them all together, I'd have enough to make a half batch of the recipe as posted at Serious Eats.I am also no math wizard, but the original recipe is used to dress a pound of cooked pasta, which ought to mean it is intended to serve 8 normal people (or my husband and I twice, if we had bread to go with it). I had enough combined veggies to roast to weigh in at nearly two pounds, so I figured that ought to render out enough pasta sauce for one dinner for two people (with bread and a salad).
I gathered my homegrown tomatillos, onions, and jalapeño, my CSA basket head of garlic, and my food co-op heirloom tomatoes, and got to chopping.It looked so pretty in the bowl, dressed with olive oil, some salt and freshly ground pepper - I had to resist the urge to simply call it a chopped salad and stop right there.I spread the mixture out on a foil lined pan. I roasted it at 350 degrees for 35 minutes as called for.I blended the mixture and ended up with what looks to be 1 1/2 to 2 cups of sauce. Certainly enough to dress two servings of pasta to combine with leftover chicken.I set the sauce aside to sit in the refrigerator and do a Vulcan Flavor Meld until dinner. Tonight, I'll take the sauce out, re-heat it slowly, put some butter in if that seems called for, dress the pasta, add the cheese and take my bows.
One last not-there-yet comment. The recipe (to follow) calls for shaped pasta. Only shaped pasta I currently have is (are?) elbow. Sheesh. Elbow is a shape, yeah? Yeah. Onward.
Now I need to get the lunchtime snack ready for the roofers who are here engaging in a combination build a roof/drive the homeowner desperately crazy maneuver. In an attempt to offset my pleas for them to avoid stomping on my baby lettuce plants and/or crush my landscaping all around the house, which I know complicates the work they are trying to get done, I am offering them daily lunch or mid-afternoon treats. Fruit punch/soda concoctions and cookies yesterday, more juice/soda punch and fresh fruit today.Would I have given such sugary treats to my own kids you wonder? A, my kids didn't typically work as hard physically as these guys are and B, shut up.
Without further ado, here's the recipe as featured in the What's for Dinner section of Serious Eats.
Roasted Tomato Sauce for Pasta
[About the author: Blake Royer lives in Brooklyn and spends most of his free time cooking and writing about it at Serious Eats and on The Paupered Chef. From 9 to 5 weekdays, he works as an assistant book editor in Manhattan.] Adapted from The River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
4 pounds tomatoes, any variety, cut in half
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound shaped pasta, such as fusilli
3 tablespoons butter
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, halve the tomatoes and pack them in an ovenproof dish. Chop the garlic if using a sieve or food mill, leave whole if blending. Mix the garlic with the olive oil and drizzle over the tomatoes. Season with a few good pinches of salt and pepper.
2. Roast for 35 minutes, until soft and just beginning to brown. Push the result through a sieve or food processor, or blend. In the meantime, bring a large pot of salty water to boil.
3. Cook the pasta until al dente. In the meantime, transfer the tomato mixture to a saucepan and add the butter. Simmer gently, aiming for a thick but not-too-pasty consistency. Add water if necessary. Season to taste.
4. Toss the drained pasta with the sauce and serve with Parmesan cheese.