The heirloom tomato. No two look alike. They come in vibrant red, deep crimson, an electric orange, marigold yellow and even a bright green, tiger-striped varietal that you would swear is unripe until you drizzle with fresh balsamic and bite into it, realizing it's just perfect. I love heirlooms the most of all tomatoes because of their distinct individuality- lumpy, oblong, and somewhat ugly, they're like the beautiful misfits of the nightshade family. I like it when things aren't perfect. That's life for ya. That's nature.
Tomatoes are a summer crop around the country- but considering it's been 90 in California in March, our tomatoes are doing just fine. I got a few of these in my farmer's market box and with time running out before they turned bruised and a little too squishy, I resorted to turning them into my all time favorite meal sidekick- tomato sauce.
Tomato sauce is the ultimate convenience food for a reason. Straight out of the can, you can just heat it up and throw it on some rice or quinoa noodles (or zoodles, if you're anything like me). Throw in some ground meat for a chunky sauce, and/or some extra vegetables. I really dig mushrooms, squash, zucchini, even some brocolli, fennel, or eggplant. I have always opted to doctor up simple canned sauces up by adding fresh garlic and diced onion, dried herbs, extra sea salt and black pepper. Quick meal and guaranteed to impress.
But fresh, homemade tomato sauce is another story. The flavor is unprecedented. Tomatoes are one of the few vegetables (actually, they're a fruit) that get MORE nutritious as they cook. This is why canned tomatoes (from a BPA-free can or a glass jar , please!) are technically better for you than the raw, untouched form of the fruit. This is because Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in the red flesh of tomatoes, greatly increases with longer cook times and heat exposure. So the longer you can simmer your tomato sauce, the better! It only gets better for you. Try it, please, you won't want to go back.
A NOTE ON OLIVE OIL // most people use olive oil as their default cooking oil, for everything from eggs to meat to vegetables. I I would like to encourage you to stop cooking with olive oil unless at low, controlled temperatures. The reason? OXIDATION. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, which means that it has a less stable molecular structure that can be damaged easily by heat and light (temperatures over 260F). When exposed to either of these factors, the molecules in the oil become unstable and go rancid aka oxidize- these create free radicals in the body, and set off a chain reaction that damages tissues, cells, and your bodily system as a whole. It's unnecessary damage that can be easily prevented by choosing stable high-heat cooking oils like coconut, red palm oil, avocado, tallow, or macadamia nut oil.
You can store in the fridge for about 5 days or so, if it lasts that long, Serves 4.
Feel free to use any other type of tomato here instead of heirlooms as well!
5 medium to large heirloom tomatoes (include a couple of reds for a rich, more deeply flavored sauce)
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup leek, white and green parts, thinly sliced
AND/ OR 1/4 red or white onion, thinly sliced
1 small sprig fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 TBSP coconut oil or ghee
sea salt (1 tsp + to taste)
cracked black pepper
optional: fresh basil
- wash and chop all vegetables and herbs, set aside
- de-stem and chop tomatoes roughly, leaving all seeds and juices.
- heat a large pot (at least 2-3 qt) over medium/high heat
- melt oil in bottom of the pot. add garlic and onion and sautée 1 minute until fragrant.
- add 1/2 of your dried and fresh herbs (except fresh basil!) and sautée while stirring for an additional 30 seconds.
- If adding additional vegetables, add them here and sautee quickly so they are coated in oil, herbs and garlic.
- pour tomatoes and all of their juices and seeds into the pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently
- turn heat to simmer and place a lid on top of the pot, stirring periodically
- 1/2way through cooking time, add the remainder of the dried and fresh spices (but still- not the fresh basil!)
- simmer on low for anywhere from 20 minutes- 3 hours. remember, the longer it cooks the more deeply flavored and nutritious the sauce will become
- when you are about 10 minutes away from being ready to eat, remove the lid and slightly turn up the heat to allow the water to evaporate and reduce the sauce. the longer you boil without a lid the chunkier your sauce will become
- remove from heat and add chopped basil if you desire. salt and pepper to taste.
- serve over zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, rice noodles, or any other italian dish you desire. makes an excellent pizza sauce as well!
LAMB MARINARA //
Traditionally, a bolognese sauce is made with ground beef. I prefer to mix it up and use ground lamb, instead- it makes the flavor a bit more interesting, not to mention that such a culinary rebellion is sure to impress your guests. To make a lamb marinara like mine above, follow the same instructions except before adding the garlic, brown 8-10oz of ground organic grass fed lamb in the ghee or coconut oil until cooked through, then add garlic, spices, onion and proceed to follow the instructions above.
if you really wanted to go wild with flavors and play off the lamb, instead of a traditional basil pesto you could add mint leaves (mint and lamb= star crossed lovers) and drizzle that on top. woah. you can thank me later.