Whether my freezer is ready or not, we're fast approaching gardening season.
Like our food columnist Elizabeth Baer, I'm trying to clean out my freezers from the mystery bags of frozen vegetables, sauces and the occasional stray lasagna noodles (why do I always cook too many, or too few noodles?). Though, unlike Elizabeth who seems to have a plan for all those frozen goodies, I rarely do. (Remember me, trying to figure out this meal planning business?)
Regardless, I've got to clear out these bags of frozen tomatoes to make room — hopefully! — for more bags of frozen tomatoes come August. Last summer, I dreamed of vats of simmering red sauce, cubes of fresh pesto plucked from the freezer and rhubarb muffins in January. And in many ways, I had time and space to do that last fall into winter. But suddenly, we're a baseball family and there's practices, cleats to keep off the rug and uniforms to clean. We've got karate belt exams to practice for (didn't know parenting would require knowledge of the Japanese language!) and vaccinated family members to visit with. Suddenly, we're busy again, and it's terrific! But sometimes, it's not, ya know?
Because now I'm staring down the fruits of my nothing-but-time labor of last summer with a lot less time in the new, new normal.
Thankfully, we all learned some lessons from the last year and a half — most importantly, don't even think about sweating the small stuff.
Those seven lasagna noodles are going in a soup tomorrow, and the pan-fried perogies that I froze from Easter — leftovers none of us could stomach for one more day — turned into a terrific casserole last night: Simply cover the thawed perogies with a cheese mixture — 4 oz softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup chicken broth and 1/2 cup shredded cheese combined — top with more cheese, chopped bacon and green onion and bake at 375 degrees covered for 25 minutes.
And instead of that big, delicious pot of homemade sauce, I'll opt for an easier, quicker roasted tomato sauce that doesn't require my grandmother's trusty hand mil. Because right now, let's use our time for less cooking projects and more getting back to regular life, safely. Besides, I'm running late for baseball practice.
ROASTED TOMATO SAUCE
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 shallot, diced
3 lbs ripe (med-large) tomatoes, cored and cut in half; or I've also just halved cherry tomatoes as well
1 tablespoons fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried, or use Italian seasoning)
1 to 2 tablespoon fresh basil, torn or chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle a large, rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic and shallot.
Place the sliced tomatoes cut-side down on the sheet pan and roast 30 minutes. Add the oregano and basil and roast 10 more minutes, or until skins have lifted off the tomatoes.
Let cool, pull off the skins, then pour all the tomatoes and their roasting juices into a bowl. Mash with a fork or potato masher, or for smoother sauce, process in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper and add the sugar to help bring out the flavor. Taste to adjust. To use right away, reheat in a pan or pot. Or refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze.