Quick, versatile tomato sauce

tomato sauce

I have all of this undersized, beautiful, tasty tomatoes in my garden. You might have a bunch of big juicy heirlooms bought at the farmers market, or a leftover assortment of smalls and larges, all different types. No worries. You can make a quick sauce that is super flexible, keeps well in the fridge for over a week, can be frozen, or can even be canned as a single jar. Just don’t’ let those gorgeous tomatoes go to waste! This is loosely a recipe for a single pint jar of sauce, though depending on your tomatoes, it might the a little more, or a little less. I decided to keep my jar in the refrigerator, and have been spooning it over pasta, toasted breads, and braised kale all week! 


2 Tbs. olive oil, heated gently in a sauce pan

1.5 cups of fresh tomatoes, skin one

1/4 tsp. of salt

4 Tbs. fresh basil leaves 

When your oil is heated gently in the skillet (olive oil doesn’t react well to high heat), add your garlic. Heat the garlic for a  few minutes until the garlic becomes translucent. Add your tomatoes. If they are small, add them whole or sliced in half. If they are larger, slice them into one inch chunks. Continue to cook the tomatoes over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they break down, and begin to release their sugars. Add the basil, torn, and the salt, stir. When the tomatoes have released enough of their juices to make a loose sauce, turn off the heat. Use immediately, or cool, and refrigerate or freeze. 

Zucchini “Noodles” with Pesto Trapanese

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetA simple, easy way to use a plethora of zucchini is to simple julienne it (as basic julienne tool like this one, or a good mandoline will make quick work of this job). You can choose to leave the zucchini raw, or blanch it quickly in boiling water for 2 minutes before dropping it into cold and draining. If you’d rather not julienne the zucchini, you can also slice it into thin coins, but you’ll want to blanch it, or bake it with the sauce. I’ve also included two photo here – with the sauce on top of the zucchini, or tossed with the “noodles” – the aesthetic is up to you! 

The trapanese sauce comes from a similar, hot dish from Landau and Jacoby’s Vedge cookbook. I’ve borrowed from their directions, and ingredient list, for the recipe below. 

4 Tbs. olive oil

1 cup cherry or other red, mini tomatoes

1/2 cup raw almonds

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves

1 Tbs. chopped garlic

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 zucchini, sliced in thin rounds, or julienned (skip the seeded center for julienne). 

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetHeat 2 Tbs. of olive oil in a large sauté pan until the oil begins to ripple. Add the tomatoes and almonds, stirring often and allowing the tomatoes to blister and brown — 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove and allow the tomato almond mixture to cool. 

Transfer the cooled tomatoes and almonds into a food processor with the fresh basil, garlic, salt, pepper, remaining  Tbs. of olive oil, and about 1/2 cup of water. Pulse until the sauce is thick and creamy. 

Pour the pesto over the zucchini, and serve room temp, or if you prefer, cook in a 400 degree oven until the sauce bubbles, 8-10 minutes. 

Pasta and Fried Zucchini Salad


It’s still summer, and there are still plenty (or too many, depending on your gardening situation) zucchinis around. This is a recipe from Ottolenghi’s Plenty, a recipe based on his grandmother’s fried zucchini. Sage and thyme are common pairings for fried zucchini, but this dish takes a more piquant summer turn with generous handfuls of torn basil and fresh parsley. Here, the zucchini is fried in olive oil, but you could always substitute butter, if you prefer. I loved this dish just barely warm, with the mozzarella still chilled. The recipe below is Ottolenghi’s, but I’ve combined ingredients with instructions, for brevity. I also added some fresh, sliced mini tomatoes from my garden. 


3 medium zucchini, in 1/4 inch slices, fried in safflower oil. After frying and draining, pour 1 1/2 Tbs. of red wine vinegar over the zucchini. 

3/4 cup frozen edamame, boiled for three minutes, drained, and cooled under cold running water. 

1 cup of fresh basil and 1/8 cup of fresh parsley, whizzed in a food processor with salt and pepper. 

9 oz. strozzapreti or penne, cooked al dente. Rinse, and return to cook pot. 

Pour the zucchini over the pasta, add the edamame, basil sauce, the grated zest of 1 lemon, 1 1/2 Tbs. capers, and 7 oz. of fresh buffalo mozzarella, torn. Toss with the remaining fresh herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. 

Kale Greek Salad

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I love a classic Greek salad – so many different textures and the all the salty goodness from olives and feta. If you, like me, have a garden full of kale, or maybe you’re just interested in upping the nutritional content in your salad bowl, you can easily substitute raw or massage kale for the traditional Romain.

If you choose to keep the kale raw, just strip the leaves from the stalks, roll them (like a burrito!) and slice them very thinly. For a slightly softer kale, just add your dressing – olive oil, lemon, and a splash of red wine vinegar along with a pinch of coarse salt to the greens, and massage them with your hands until the leaves turn dark, and soft.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset If you like, you can toss your individual salad additions with additional dressing, or just leave them as is, put them in the bowl, grind on some black pepper, and enjoy!

Tomato, CousCous and Herb Salad

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This easy, cold salad comes together quickly, and makes great use of late Augusts juicy tomatoes and plentiful herbs. My salad, above, is a slightly simpler version of Ottolenghi’s “Tomato Party” from his cookbook Plenty. A simple mix of regular and larger, Israeli couscous, which cooks and cool quickly. As many tomatoes as you wish (the more the better) yellow, green, orange, red, zebra – the more the merrier. And then handfuls of chopped herbs – basil, mint, oregano. Finish is with a glug of good olive oil (I’ve been loving a lemon olive oil from Olive Pressee), a good splash of balsamic vinegar (I used a black current balsamic, also from Presse) course sale, plenty of black pepper, and a well-crushed and minced clove of garlic. Viola! A perfect August salad. 


Pea Sprouts and Shoots

pea shoots

I’ve been trying to grow peas for for years, and Philadelphia’s relatively brief Spring has always thwarted me. Not this year! I was able to grow some wonderful peas, and they are actually still producing! I doubt that they’ll make it through a hot August, so I’m picking my pea sprouts and shoots and curls now, and enjoying them while I can. 

One of the easiest ways to prepare pea shoots is to not prepare them at all – just chop them and toss them into a salad! You can also quick pickle them, throw them into a stir fry, blend them with herbs into a pesto, or toss them into a summer soup. 

Do you have other ways to enjoy pea shoots and spouts? 

Pickled Cauliflower

pickled cauliflower
It’s been hot in Philly, and very humid. It’s about this time in the summer where the idea of cooking anything is completely unappealing. I had a nice head of organic cauliflower in the refrigerator, no intention of roasting or cooking it, but I don’t really enjoy it raw. What to do? Pickle!

It’s easy to make quick, refrigerator pickles out of almost any produce. I like my pickles garlic and spicy, so I added a clove of fresh garlic and some red pepper flakes to the basic quick-pickle formula, but you could skip it, or add lemon zest, herbs, whatever floats your boat.

Start will clean, trimmed, fresh produce pre-cut into your pickle size and placed in a large, non-reactive bowl. Bring 1 cup of white vinegar to boil with 1/2 cup of water, and sugar to taste (I like my sugar content lsaladow, so I go with 1/4 cup, but you could use up to 1/2 cup). When the sugar has dissolved, pour the boiling liquid over the vegetables, which acts like a “quick cook.” When the vegetables and liquid have cooled, pour into a jar or other refrigerator-happy container and chill for at least 12 hours.

Result – quick pickles! You can serve them as a classy appetizer, or pile them onto salads, like I’ve done (to the left). Enjoy!