Hello my Foodie Friends!
This past week and weekend celebrates my mother-in-law and my mother (who has passed) birthdays. As my family celebrate both of their birthdays, I reflect on my treasured childhood experiences especially during the end of summer weather. Along with this time of year came the time to work in the garden and harvest the incredible vegetables that we worked hard to grow and maintain over the summer. I love garden grown tomatoes. It often took all of my control to not bite into them as I was pulling them from their stems. Fresh tomatoes smell so good. My grandmother and mother always loved to make their sauce from home grown tomatoes. Therefore, in August and September, when tomatoes are at their ripest, it was a very busy time for me to help them in the garden. Every summer, when the garden was coming up tomatoes, my family would pass them through a chinois or food mill to get rid of skins and seeds. We would have fresh tomato sauce year-round. When you use a chinois or a food mill, tomatoes stay dense and rich.
The chinois is a cone-shaped strainer with a tightly woven mesh for filtering impurities from stocks, soups and sauces. To make the best use of a chinois, you’ll need a pointed wooden pestle, tailored to closely fit the bottom of the cone. The pestle allows you to easily press every last bit of juice and flavor from the solids. A stand is useful for holding the chinois upright over a pot or bowl. A chinois can be used for taking lumps out of gravy or even for taking the juice from citrus fruit. However, the most common use for a chinois is for making soup stock or sauces. For example, a chinois can be used to remove the seeds from tomatoes to prepare a fresh tomato sauce. Some people use a chinois to prepare apple sauce. It is also known as a bouillon strainer and it is commonly used for preparing soup stock as the conical shape helps funnel the stock into your pot. The fine mesh also keeps the bigger pieces of meat from the bones from going into the soup stock and clouding the clear broth.
To make a fresh sauce, dice tomatoes, then toss them in a pot and set it over moderate heat, stirring frequently. The tomatoes quickly begin dumping out their water as they heat up. Simmer the tomatoes until most of the excess liquid has cooked off, then transfer them to a chinois or a food mill. To peel the tomatoes, cut out the stem end and score an X into the skin with a sharp knife. Then drop them in boiling water until the skins just start to show signs of coming loose around the score marks (just about 30 seconds to a minute). Finally, transfer the tomatoes to an ice bath to shock them and stop the cooking; this will help loosen the skins even more. You should be able to just peel them right off with your hands. Dice the remaining tomato flesh, transfer it to a mesh strainer/ chinois or food mill, set over a bowl, and sprinkle it liberally with salt, which will draw out moisture. After about 30 minutes to an hour, puree the pulp with a blender. The puree has a very bright, fresh flavor, like gazpacho—but without any of the other ingredients, obviously. Included is a recipe for a fresh tomato sauce.
At Compliments to the Chef, your Neighborhood Kitchen and Cutlery store located at 33 Railroad Place, we carry cool tools for cooks to help with those culinary traditions. Working in the garden can make for some lifelong memories made with family and friends while sharing your culinary creations. Remember my Foodie Friends, “Life Happens in the Kitchen.”
John & Paula