Saturday, February 21, 2009

Leftover Thyme? Make Batches of Basic Tomato Sauce

I was cleaning out the 'fridge this morning and came across a package of fresh thyme purchased by my partner about a week ago. He used maybe one or two sprigs. The fact that we have essentially an entire $3 or $4 package of unused thyme is bothering me. I hate wasting food and, nowadays, with our tanking economy, I'm particularly conscious about making sure any food we purchase actually gets consumed.

So, what to do with the leftover sprigs of thyme? I like making batches of Mario Batali's basic tomato sauce from his book, "Molto Italiano 327 Italian Recipes to Cook at Home." This sauce, which is naturally sweetened by the carrots, is my favorite tomato sauce to make. It's also versatile. I've used it for eggplant parmesan and lasagna, among other dishes. I typically make two separate batches and freeze the sauce in GLAD containers containing 2 1/2 cups each (enough for 2 people).

Basic Tomato Sauce
Makes approximately 4-5 cups

1/4 cup extra virgin oil
1 Spanish onion cut into 1/4 inch dice
4 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 finely shredded medium carrot
Two 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand (see note below), and juices reserved

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook until softened and lightly browned, 8-10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook until the carrot is quite soft, about 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, with their juice, and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer until sauce is as thick as hot cereal, about 30 minutes. Season with salt.

Note: I chopped the thyme leaves in a coffee grinder, and did the remaining chopping and shredding in a food processor. As for the crushed tomatoes, I just poured the whole tomatoes and their juices into the saucepan and then gently crushed each one using both hands, being careful not to touch the sides or the bottom of the hot saucepan.


Anonymous said...

Great idea! I hate buying cilantro for that very reason -- I can never use it up fast enough -- but I'm guessing it would be good in a tomato sauce as well. (I've also got some clementines sitting on the counter whose juice might be good squeezed into chicken broth...hmm...)

Anonymous said...

Lovely, gentle sauce, thanks. My sister-in-law can't eat tomatoes onaccounta her RA, so she uses pumpkin puree colored with powdered beet in place of tomatoes. Properly spiced, you can't tell the difference and the resulting sauce is a little sweet but delish.

AJ said...

The thing about using cilantro is, you don't really want to cook it the way the thyme is cooked. Cilantro is best used raw and not heated or wilted, because it will turn brown and lose its flavor.

You could sub oregano in this recipe if you like, but cilantro is, I think, too delicate, at least for cooking the raw leaves.

DAVID said...

I don't think I would be inclined to use cilantro for a tomato sauce if the sauce were to be frozen. I would be concerned about cilantro breaking down and losing its flavor during the freezing process. Cilantro is, as AJ says, very delicate.

I have used leftover cilantro for salsa: dice 1 red onion, add chopped cilantro, one 28 oz can of diced tomatoes (juices strained), juice from one lime, 1 jalapeno pepper (seeded and diced), and salt to taste.

DAVID said...

Mommybrain, I just looked up powdered beet on the internet. Would you be willing to share what spices your sister-in-law uses? I'm definitely interested in trying this for myself.