What’s for supper?

For the past five days I’ve been thinking that I really need to do something with the tomatoes I keep gathering and letting accumulate on the work-table. They are delicious to eat fresh, out of hand, like candy — particularly the little yellow pears and the long thin ones I can’t identify. (A friend gave me the plants and said they are a heritage Italian plum variety but honestly, I grow lots of different plum tomatoes and these resemble nothing I’ve ever seen. They’re very flavourful.)

out of handSo today it’s kind of drizzly and grey, a good day to do more than think about what to do with the tomatoes. My friend Barbara Lambert wrote a novel set in Italy and on her website (www.barbaralambert.com), she has some Tuscan recipes, offered in the voice of one of the characters in The Whirling Girl. I thought the roasted tomato sauce looked good. So I used her recipe as a template and made what turned out to be nine cups of the sauce. I chopped tomatoes into two roasting pans coated with olive oil. Added a head of garlic cloves (peeled) to each pan. I didn’t have cooking onions but found several clumps of spring onions in the garden which had been forgotten, or hidden, and those small bulbs, trimmed and peeled, were so pungent! Some flaky French sea salt. Ground pepper. A handful of rosemary leaves from the plants outside. Another drizzle of olive oil over top and into a 425 oven for a hour, turning everything twice. (The recipe suggests two hours at 450 but I found a lower temperature and a shorter roasting time to be perfect for the tomatoes I was using.) Once cooled, I whirred the tomatoes in batches in the blender with handsful of basil, the grated zest of one lemon and the juice of that (Meyer) lemon. (Again, the recipe suggests one lemon per pan and more later but one for the entire batch seemed just fine to my taste.) When the mixture was too thick in for blender to puree easily, I added about a quarter cup of red wine. I now have nine cups of this beautiful sauce, more ochre than red because I used about half yellow tomatoes. And I used every sort of red — plums, big meaty ones, Black Krims, a few Brandywines. It’s what we’ll have for dinner tonight, over fettucine, with lots of grana padano, and a salad of violet beans — which are also beginning to fill the work-table. Pickling next week?

tomatoes

After Rain

It’s the title of one of the late P.K. Page’s poems, a favourite of mine, her and the poem. I knew her in Victoria when I was a girl, a young poet looking for a model, I guess. And she was such a good one. I hear her reading this poem as I read it now, her elegant voice, her beautiful hands holding her book. This was the poem I thought of in the night when I woke to hear rain on our blue roof. There was a brief shower the other day and a more convincing one in the night. Still not enough rain for these aching woods, the gardens, the creeks and rivers and reservoirs. But welcome, all the same.

I loved walking around my garden this morning and see the moisture on the leaves,

salad days

the shoulders of the tomatoes.

princes in waitingA little rain after months of intense heat — I picked a colander of tomatoes and then went back for these three, as lovely as a still-life:

we three kings

I wonder if we’d appreciate that sound of rain if we’d heard it in March, unrelenting, or a patch of salad greens if it hadn’t taken a fair bit of cultivation to have them ready for the table. I think of how absence makes the heart not just fonder but it provides the template for what’s to come (I’m anticipating the arrival of all my children and their partners and treasured grandbaby Kelly next week). What dry stones look like in a creek bed you cross in winter, one careful foot at a time as the waters rush around you. The blackberries earlier this week, their laden canes the same ones that latticed the trail bare in autumn. The sound of loons this morning after a run of quiet dawns.

And choir me too to keep my heart a size

larger than seeing, unseduced by eath

bright glimpse of beauty striking like a bell,

so that the whole may toll,

its meaning shine

clear of the myriad images that still —

do what I will — encumber its pure line.

— P.K. Page, from “After Rain”