Fresh Tomato Sauce Quick!
For Tomato Sauce there is no shortage of good recipes. The one thing that can't be stressed enough though, is the quality of the tomato itself. If you can grow them yourself, or have a farm source, that's the best. Picked ripe, the top.

You can't go wrong with anything the great Lidia Bastianich gives you. And her recipe for a quick fresh tomato sauce is nonpareil. (A little tip she gives in that recipe is about the tomato seeds. The seeds impart bitterness in a slow cooked sauce. Act with that in mind when you are preparing a slow cooked tomato based sauce. (And now we know why Mrs. Palazzolo*** added sugar to her sauces.)

There is also José Andrés who taught me a nice little trick with the tomatoes. It's a preference thing about the texture of your sauce. Lidia crushes the tomatoes by hand. José showed how to crush the tomatoes on the coarse side of a box grater. You get a very nice uniform textured "puree" with a good presence of solids that dance on whatever the sauce is paired with.

The beauty of that technique is you don't have to blanch the tomatoes to remove the skins. Done right the box grater will give you fast results, leaving only the skin.

On box graters: Get the best you can afford. It will last forever so might as well get one that performs well. Stainless won't rust.


***FLASHBACK: Joe Palazollo was a high school buddy of mine. We aren't in touch that often, but he's the kind of friend that you can call after a long time apart and just pick up with as if it was yesterday. His parents were from Sicily and Mrs. Palazollo was the greatest cook. She came from the old country to the United States at a young age to be Joe's father's bride in a marriage arranged by their families.

She had old fashioned ways in the kitchen too. Everything from scratch. Even made her own sausage. Pizza, just give her a few minutes. Her sister, Aunt Jennie, once took me in hand and we shopped for the ingredients, and then made sausage in her kitchen. They kept in storage in the closet a shoe box filled with sugar frosted pastry crescents filled with figs, raisins, dates, oranges and nuts. They called them cuchidata cookies. I called them "cuchi-cuchi" cookies, which never failed to get a smile (I was so cute). There was something called sfingi, small fried doughnut balls piled high on a plate and drizzled with honey and sprinkles. Those two sweet items usually came out during the Christmas season.

It was at the Palazollo's at a holiday party when I took what I thought was a piece of celery from the antipasto platter. Not what I expected. What a taste shock. The kind you have when you have an expectation and get totally surprised because it's something else altogether. Like thinking you are taking a sip of a martini and discover it's only water. Or like stepping onto a staircase after riding on escalators. [I could talk about my ex-wife's experience with me, but that has nothing to do with cooking. Also, it's none of your business.] Anyway, on that occasion it wasn't celery, but a fresh bulb fennel. I didn't take to it right away; but, Mrs. Palazzolo, wherever you are, it is now a favorite of mine.

I was also introduced to the artichoke by that kind woman. [In Arizona I had a huge garden and artichokes grow there like weeds. We had several dozen plants going and we would pick tons of them, then toss them wholesale into a huge pot to steam, then ruthlessly trim down to the hearts which we preserved in good olive oil. After a while with so much artichoke bounty... Basta! And, if you like artichokes, try cardoon... and soon!]

A very vivid recollection was spending many an evening at Joe's sitting around with our little clique of guys and gals listening to the Kingston Trio on the hi-fi. Mrs. Palazollo would serve homemade pizza pie which made those evenings totally delicious for me. You can play the recording below of the Kingston Trio singing Where Have All the Flowers Gone...  

Lastly, Joe lived across the street from a real Italian bakery. They made their own lemon ice and on some hot Detroit summer evenings we would go across to get some to dip into with potato chips. Sounds odd; but, try it. It could be the next new thing. (You heard it here first.)

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