willing, or, the best roasted tomato sauce ever
I wish I were more casual about tomatoes, more like, “Oh, tomatoes? Yeah, sometimes they all ripen, sometimes not, no biggie.” And then I’d skip off to do something fun and frivolous, something lost on people who stake their well being on several hundred red fruits ripening. Instead I’m pacing the garden, seeing each crimson orb as a future indispensable player on the field of roasted tomato sauce. I’d ripen them with the hot blaze of my attention if I could.
Last month our friend Maja and her three kids led us through the spruce trees on a mushroom-picking foray, followed by a fungal feast at their house (Chanterelles and spinach simmered in cream sauce. Just saying). Rose said to me afterwards, in whispery reverent tones, “Maja is so nice. She’s so willing.”
Being willing is one of the highest compliments Rose can bestow upon you. It means you say yes a lot, don’t have a lot of stuffy rules for the sake of cleanliness and order, and you live a full, celebratory life now, instead of say, roping off the tomatoes for some future dream of roasted tomato sauce.
Last weekend, I promised Rose that we could swim from the bridge behind the high school to Paradise Island (the length of a very long city block), having no idea how skin-tinglingly cold the water would be, being, well, formerly snow. I waded in tentatively, middle aged mother-style, legs going numb in sections, hoping Rose would see the craziness in the idea. But no, Rose was screeching and splashing in her bikini like some future version of her spring-break-in-Mexico self. “You’re doing great, Mama, keep coming!” she shouted. And I became willing. I became so willing that I dove in. I screeched and splashed with her. I floated on my back, dodged rocks, and slid through the aquatic plants which Rose greeted like a kingdom of leafy green babies.
Rose has a lot of wants. They start at approximately 6:30 am and don’t let up until I’m kissing her goodnight and she reminds me to come back and check on her in fifteen minutes. Fifteen, she calls from her top bunk as I’m walking out to my own version of freedom. Fifteen, I confirm. What I’m saying is there is a lot of opportunity to become willing.
I’m trying to seize willingness when I can. Sometimes being willing means saying yes to a tickle session with Rose when I’d rather impersonate a very sedentary person on the couch. Or saying yes to taking Col to the Animas Air Park to troll around the tiny private planes even though this pit of mother-fear burbles up at the thought of my son behind the controls of any plane.
The times I can overcome my own boring inertia become its own reward. Rose’s gappy-toothed howls from a tickle session reverberate in my body, inevitably loosening some of the stress lodged in my bones.
We recently had the opportunity to foster a Mama cat and her nine kittens. It sounded vaguely fun and sweet, though before Dan left on his last hunting trip he kissed me and whispered, “I don’t want to come home to find ten cats in our house.” Would a more willing mom have said yes? We’re currently fostering four kittens which is exactly like having babies and toddlers in the house again: excessive yowling and pooping interspersed with heart-melting cuteness. Clearly, willingness has its limits.
Frost is in the forecast, which means all our blankets and tarps are pressed into service nightly because I’m programmed to fill the pantry with tomato sauce and salsa. I’ve published this recipe for roasted tomato sauce various places, but have tweaked it somewhat. I don’t add sugar anymore, and I usually use coconut oil rather than olive oil because current word on the street is olive oil shouldn’t be heated to high temperatures.
Best Ever Roasted Tomato Sauce
(makes approx 1 quart; I recommend making double or quadruple batches)
Prep time: 20 minutes; Cooking time: 1 hour; Clean up time: you don’t want to know.
4-5 pounds tomatoes
½ onion, sliced
2-4 whole cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
4 tbsp fresh herbs or 1 tbsp dried herbs
¼ cup coconut oil, lard or high-quality olive oil.
Additional vegetables, as available
Adding roasted, pureed onions and chopped steamed broccoli to the sauce to freeze in jars.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the tomatoes in half and place cut side down on cookie sheet in a single layer. Toss onions, garlic, salt, and herbs on top of tomatoes and drizzle with oil. Or, if you have enough for multiple batches, roast tomatoes and onions in separate cookie sheets. Roast for one hour or until the tomatoes shrivel and collapse and their juices start pooling in the bottom of the baking dish. Process the mixture with a blender or food processor until smooth. If you want to remove the skins and seeds (which is unnecessary, though it makes for a prettier, smoother sauce), run the sauce through a food mill.
Addendum: Because my garden is full of veggies right now, I am making this sauce into a tomato veggie sauce. I usually roast 2 trays of tomatoes, 1 tray of onions, and then steam broccoli or kale to add in after everything else is cooked.
Kids at work: stripping kale off stems.
To Preserve: This recipe has too much oil to can in a water-bath. Must be pressure canned or frozen. I do both.