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Flavorful sauce starts with unripened tomatoes

Recipe: Use those late-season green tomatoes in a casual fall meal

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Got green tomatoes? Roast them to make a delicious sauce. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)


At my community garden, I’m usually one of the last gardeners to pull out their tomato plants. One reason is I typically have three or four cherry-tomato plants still producing, notably the unstoppable Juliet variety. That one will carry on until frost if I let it.

But another reason is I grow a lot of tomato plants, and a few are so pretty and green again by October that I hold off turning them into compost. Not all of these set new tomatoes, but this fall the continuing warm weather prompted several to do so, including my Big Beef and First Prize plants. But I knew I was kidding myself about seeing many more red full-size tomatoes the rest of the year. So I picked most of them last weekend and hunted for a new way to use green tomatoes.

Now, of course, the cooler nights and the smoky skies are shutting down tomato production anyway, as Debbie detailed in this week’s
Garden Checklist .

In the past I’ve canned a lovely green tomato chutney and a spicy green tomato jam, but I didn’t want to get out the canning kettle this time. Instead I hit on the idea of making a roasted green tomato sauce. Was there such a thing? An Internet search turned up a few variations, notably one on Genius Kitchen which I used as inspiration to create the Italian-style sauce here.

The resulting sauce wasn’t as piquant as I feared it might be -- the long roasting time and the additional of roasted white onions mellowed the flavor. Basil from my still-producing plants plus garlic and red pepper flakes added depth.

I tossed the sauce with potato gnocchi and served it alongside chicken Italian sausages, with an Amador County sangiovese to drink. Delicious, and a nice change from red sauce.

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All ready for the oven.


Roasted green tomato sauce
Makes enough for 6 side dish servings

Ingredients:

Extra virgin olive oil, for pan and for drizzling

3 pounds medium green (unripened) tomatoes, about 12

1 large white onion

Salt and freshly ground pepper

3 to 6 fresh garlic cloves (I used 6, but I love garlic)

24 basil leaves, plus more for garnish

⅛ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

Prepared potato gnocchi, polenta, or pasta of your choice

Grated Parmesan cheese


Instructions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Brush olive oil lightly over the surface of one or two rimmed sheet pans (depending on size). I used two so I’d have enough room for the vegetables to lie flat. Core the tomatoes; I finally used a melon ball scoop to do this because my knife kept slipping on the hard tomatoes.

Slice the tomatoes into ¼-inch slices and spread them in one layer on the prepared pans. Cut the onion into slices and spread them across the pan(s), interspersed between the tomatoes.

Lightly salt and pepper the vegetables and drizzle on a bit of olive oil. Put the uncovered pan(s) on the middle oven racks and slow-roast for 30 minutes, switching the pans’ positions after about 15 minutes if using two pans.

While the tomatoes and onions are cooking, peel and roughly chop the garlic cloves. Put them with the basil leaves and the red pepper flakes in a small food processor or mini chopper and process until evenly minced.

Take the pans out of the oven, and turn up the temperature to 350 degrees. Dot the tomatoes with bits of the garlic-basil mixture. Cover the pans completely with foil and return them to the oven for 30 minutes, again switching the pans’ positions after 15 minutes.

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Try the sauce with gnocchi for a side dish.
When time’s up, remove the pans from the oven, remove the foil and let the vegetables cool a few minutes. Scrape them off the pans (including the brown bits) into a food processor or blender and blend until the sauce is consistent but still somewhat chunky. Transfer to a saucepan to heat through. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.

Toss the sauce with the prepared gnocchi or pasta. (For polenta, I'd recommend passing it separately.) To serve, garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and a few basil leaves.

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RECIPE

A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist for week of April 7

The warm wave coming this week will shift weeds into overdrive. Get to work!

* Weed, weed, weed! Whack them before they flower.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash. Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias. Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom. April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce and cabbage seedlings.

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