Monday, September 12, 2011

Raw Tomato Sauce

I am a cook who likes ease, Craig likes challenge. My imagination tends to stop at the point where I think I have a well balanced meal, a pleasing combination of flavors, textures and colors. Craig is always questing, always digger deeper into his experience to improve and invent. Pasta is a success to me if I have the noodles just the right texture and it is not too salty. Pasta is a success to Craig if he knocks your socks off and elevates his fellow diners to speechless bliss. For example, last night was squid ink pasta with crab meat, lobster mushrooms, bottarga and chives. His cooking is about respecting the ingredients but boldly combining so that each takes on a dimension, a presence it would not have on its own. I am more about letting each ingredient fully be itself. Like the tomato and blue cheese salad from around this time last year, that combination is about the tomato really shining.
There is one pasta where our cooking styles meet, and that is in Raw Tomato Sauce. This is a sauce for now, right this minute. I feel a striking of relief when Craig makes this pasta. It is relieving to have a few things to learn from him that I can easily do, not so much because they are easy but because they relate to my cooking style.
Also, it is relaxing to eat a meal that is simple because there is little demand to appreciate the labor that went into it. Sometimes it is good to let a tomato be a tomato, to let dinner just be dinner. And, there is often a big clean up with an ambitious meal. This meal has a simple clean up, leaving more time to enjoy the falling golden light of these early evenings.

Take freshest possible raw tomatoes. Either paste tomatoes or giant, watery heirlooms. Aroma and texture are key.
Slice them in half and squeeze the seeds out.
Grate on a box grater into a big bowl. Discard skins.
If you are using tomatoes with a lot of water, grate into a bowl and then strain some of the water off. (The tomato water is very yummy as a beverage. We added a little salt, pepper, chiso and shochu for a cocktail.)
Mince or paste garlic to taste. Careful not to overpower the tomato.
Sea salt and pepper to taste.
Your very best olive oil to taste. I had wished for a super fresh extra virgin olive oil, the kind that is so peppery as to be spicy.
Let that sit while you cook your pasta.
Toss and sprinkle with minced basil or other herb and Parmesan.
Variations we've added so far include anchovies and lemon zest.

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