17 March 2012

Ridin' the Gravy Train

Something had to be done about the endless canned tomatoes in our basement.  With winter at its end, my creativity has run out.  Any original or unique aspirations I had for the contents of those jars have subsided.  It's time to make gravy.  With Spring teasing us, my taste buds were primed for something fresh so I decided on a simple, versatile tomato-basil gravy.   

one tomato shelf is cleared!


7 quarts canned tomatoes
garlic to taste (I used two heads)
frozen basil pesto (about a cup)
1/4 cup olive oil
kosher salt to taste

One could use fresh or dried spices.  I used basil pesto because I had about a cup of it on hand--the last frozen pesto in the deep freeze.  The basil holds its flavor well that way.    This is a very simple gravy--no fancy ingredients or techniques.  It highlights the tomato, which deserves attention.  A homegrown tomato has unparalleled flavor. 

Coarsely chop garlic and add to oil heated in a stockpot.  Sauté , but do not let it scorch or turn brown.

the end of the garlic is almost in sight

Add tomatoes.  Stir in pesto.

it will boil down to a nice consistency and more homogeneous-looking gravy

Simmer on low until reduced to viscosity of your liking.  Mine had to reduce for 4-5 hours because my tomatoes had a high water content.

the Italian Heirloom seeds came in the mail the same day--if that's not a sign to make gravy . . .

Once gravy is reduced and your kitchen is sufficiently blanketed in tomato matter, there are many traditional Italian-American dishes to create with a marinara.  For starters, Spaghetti with Marinara.  I know this is so simple it almost seems silly to post, but never in my existence have I wanted spaghetti more than during the hours this gravy was cooking.  Gravy-making day calls for pasta.  My husband had to wait an hour for dinner in the tomato aroma while I went to the gym.  When I came home, I realized he could not be trusted alone with the gravy:  he was just shy of climbing in the pot and taking a marinara bath.  We were both ready for a marinara orgy.

I know it is humble looking, but it's a tomato party in your mouth.  good ingredients=good eating

The 7 quarts of tomatoes along with the few other ingredients yielded about 1.5 gallons of gravy.  That might sound like a lot.  I made it on Thursday.  It lasted until Monday.  Here's why:

Eggplant Parm:  crispy eggplant topped with gravy, mozzarella di bufala, parmesan and broiled to perfection

I'm still amazed that this . . .

came from this.

but something delicious happens when you do this

Lasagna:  lasagna noodles, gravy, ricotta-egg-parmesan mixture, topped with mozzarella di bufala and parmesan.  My formula isn't very hard to identify.  It's also not hard to enjoy.

I haven't made a lasagna all year. Layers of homemade gravy and homemade ricotta is a good final winter meal

Monday night fast flour tortilla pizzas:  This isn't traditional--it's my in-a-pinch meal.  Flour tortillas make a great, fast, thin-crust pizza.  Make fun if you want, but Jacques said it's ok.  I really like tortilla pizzas with roasted brussel sprouts and shaved parmesan.  It feels like a splurge, but is very reasonable calorically, which is a hilarious point to make after posting eggplant parm and lasagna.   

a fake margherita, I know

And indeterminate amounts of marinara were sopped up by multiple baguettes.  That's my favorite way to enjoy a good homemade gravy.  I needed a bread intervention.  My last meal on earth would be my mother's sausage gravy and three loaves of Italian bread.   

Vivienne has also taken to gravy-eating.  She would have had macaroni with marinara for three meals a day if I let her.  She hasn't quite taken to the bread-dipped-in-gravy phenomenon, but I'm confident she'll learn.  By the time we work our way through the rest of the canned tomatoes, she'll be a pro.  Like her mama.

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