Spicy Sauce with a Secret
This chunky, rustic sauce is a delicious summer treat when tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are abundant in the garden and in the markets. The recipe is versatile, easily adapted to your taste or the ingredients that you have on hand. Add hot peppers for spice, or sweet peppers for zip without the heat. A dash of cinnamon or ground cloves balance the tartness of the tomatoes. And if your family does not like eggplant, they’ll never even know it’s there! Serve over pasta, polenta, or steamed cauliflower with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
8-12 fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded
3-4 fresh Japanese eggplants (or any small variety)
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled
1-3 small peppers, seeded (any variety, sweet or hot, or both!)
1 small can of tomato sauce
handful of fresh sage, basil or oregano leaves, chopped
1-3 tsp pure can sugar or brown sugar
1 TBSP balsamic vinegar or red wine
1/4 tsp cinnamon or ground cloves
1 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 TBSP butter
Tomato skins and seeds should be removed prior to adding the tomatoes to your sauce or they will add a bitter twinge. It is very simple to remove skins by blanching tomatoes. Bring a large pot of water to a full, rolling boil. While the water is heating, wash your produce and place and ‘X’ with a knife in the skin on the bottom of each tomato.
Place the tomatoes in the boiling water and simmer for 2 minutes. Quickly remove them from the pot and place them into a bowl of ice water. When they have cooled down, gently peel the skin away. It should slide off easily.
Cut the tomatoes in half and scrape out the seeds. Discard the skins and seeds.
Using your hands, hold each tomato over a medium sauce pot. Squeeze the tomato to crush it and drop it into the pot. Add balsamic vinegar and cinnamon or ground cloves. Simmer the tomatoes over medium heat to reduce the liquid while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.
Hint: Cook tomato sauce in stainless steel pots. The acid in tomatoes can react with aluminum pots and change the flavor of your sauce.
Roast the Eggplant and Peppers
Place eggplant, peppers, and garlic in a bowl. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the vegetables on a cookie sheet and broil for 5-10 minutes, until browned. Check on them frequently as they can burn quickly.
Place the roasted vegetables and the peach in a food processor and pulse to give them a rough chop. If you do not have a food processor, chop the vegetables and peach and place them in a bowl. Mash them gently with a potato masher.
If using fresh herbs, there is a simple way to chop them. Wash your herbs and stack them in a pile. Roll up the pile like a jellyroll.
Using a sharp knife, slice the roll of herbs crosswise. This will make long, slender pieces. If you prefer, continue to chop the slices into smaller pieces. Add the herbs to the tomatoes and stir in.
Combine the Tomatoes and Roasted Vegetables
Add the roasted vegetable mixture and butter to the tomatoes. Allow the butter to melt as you stir the ingredients, and then taste the mixture. If it is bitter, begin to add sugar, 1/2 tsp at a time, until the desired flavor is reached. Warm the sauce, but do not overcook it, or the eggplant may become sticky.
Serve immediately over pasta, polenta or steamed cauliflower. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Hearty focaccia bread is especially nice with this rustic sauce.
Organic pure cane sugar provides the best flavor to your sauce, without the “twang” that cheaper, refined sugars can add. Cheap, white sugar is often beet sugar, rather than cane sugar, and it can change the taste and texture of your food and ruin a recipe. High quality cane sugar will ensure the best flavor.