By David Harbilas
Considering the short growing season of tomatoes in many areas of the country, methods of preserving tomatoes are extremely valuable.
Yet just how are we to think of new ways to use canned tomatoes other than in a typical sauce?
I recently cooked at a small Italian restaurant in the Seacoast area of New Hampshire, where tomatoes were featured year-round in a variety of preparations.
Here is an adaptation of their winter tomato sauce that features both canned and dried tomatoes. Serve this over pasta, or with grilled or roasted meat, chicken, fish or pork. The meaty flavor of the dried tomatoes are especially good with a whole wheat pasta, and the thickness of the sauce coats shorter shapes, like penne, better than longer, thinner pastas like spaghetti or linguine.
Makes about 2 qts. sauce
1 bulb fennel, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Â½ cup basil leaves, or 2 tablespoons dried basil
2 cups sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in olive oil)
Two 35-ounce cans plum tomatoes, preferably Italian
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Â¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring two cups of water to a boil and pour over the sun dried tomatoes. Let stand for 20-30 minutes and remove the tomatoes, reserving the soaking liquid. In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and sautÃ© the garlic cloves until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add the fennel and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until soft.
Add the white wine, tomatoes, and basil and cook for 10-15 minutes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and cook for an additional 30 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Blend the mixture in a food processor until relatively smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add some of the sun-dried tomato water to puree. Return the sauce to the saucepan. If it is too watery, cook over medium heat until thick. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper.