Tomato Sauce Seasoned with Lemongrass. Quick, Thick, and Easy!
I have really been enjoying doing cooking demos at the Wakefield Farmers Market this summer. I will hopefully get around to posting about the recipes I prepared earlier in the season, (some of which caused our farmer to sell out!) but will start with this easy and really delicious (if I do say so myself!) tomato sauce that I prepared in the Market Kitchen Tent on August 6, 2016.
Since the goal of these demos is to encourage folks to try new types of produce and/or learn easy ways to use various veggies and fruits and then purchase them from our farmers, all the ingredients for the sauce except for the olive oil, salt, and black pepper were sourced from our farmers that market morning.
First, I got 5 pounds of lovely tomatoes and basil, and I already had some garlic from Farmer Dave’s. I didn’t get a picture of it, but I got an awesome onion from Kelly’s Farm, and specific to this demo, I got the lemongrass from Flats Mentor Farm.
I had been wanting to make sauce for a farmers market demo so I could share a handy technique for making a thick sauce from fresh tomatoes without the day-long simmer that I previoulsy posted about HERE. I also am always looking for ways to highlight less familiar Asian veggies, greens, and herbs available from Flats Mentor Farm. In wandering around the Internet, I came across a tomato sauce recipe calling for lemon zest. AHA! I thought, maybe lemon grass is an option. Having never used lemon grass, I needed to find out if it could, indeed, be used to bring a light, citrus boost to a cooked sauce. After some searching, I found this information:
Substitute 1 stalk lemongrass, chopped to make 1 TBSP for 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated.
I also found a very helpful tutorial on preparing and using lemongrass HERE.
With this info, as well as ideas based on perusing a number of sauce recipes using a minimum of seasonings, I was ready, packing just olive oil, salt, and a pepper mill to use in addition to the produce from our farmers. (Disclaimer: Although I knew I would only need a few of the items, I actually always bring a small tote bag with what I consider pantry essentials so I will be prepared for anything: olive oil, rice vinegar, tamari, salt, a pepper mill, dried red pepper flakes, and honey. I should add some maple syrup, too.)
After I got all the ingredients from our farmers, I started with the five pounds of tomatoes. I cut them in half, cut out the stem/core, and then grated them right into a big bowl, holding the cut side of the tomato along my box grater on the side with the biggest holes, which also saved peeling the tomatoes as the skin remained behind.
Next I prepped the lemongrass and garlic, using about two inches of peeled lemongrass and the equivalent of a smallish clove of garlic, both minced. I did not measure, but I am going to say two 2 teaspoons of minced lemongrass and 1 teaspoon of minced garlic. Or thereabouts. Next time I will most likely use at least another teaspoon or two of minced lemongrass.
Next I chopped a medium size onion and added it, with the garlic and lemongrass, to the pan after I had heated a few tablespoons of olive oil, and cooked on medium heat until just soft. Then I added a handful of fresh basil, chopped, and a few grinds of black pepper, and sauteed for a few minutes before adding the grated tomatoes.
Once all had cooked for about five minutes, I poured the contents of the pan, via a few batches, through a big mesh strainer, making sure to get as much liquid separated out as I could. Then, reserving the pulp, I poured the liquid back into the pan and cooked it down until very thick, which took about 15 or 20 minutes.
Once the liquid was thick enough to stay apart so you could see the pan for a few moments after running a spoon along the bottom, (see photo) I added back the pulp, and a about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and simmered for a few minutes to reheat the pulp and meld the flavors. And that was it!
For the market demo, I had cooked up some Fresh Egg Fusilli from our vendor Deano’s Pasta, which was the perfect medium!
And, below, here is the sauce. Well, what was left of it when I remembered to take a picture of it. It was definitely thick. 🙂 And folks sure did like it. I had two people ask me if they could buy the sauce and then told me I should get someone to jar it for me so I could sell it! And, having a youngster say, with eyes wide, “This IS good!” is another indicator that using simple seasonings and easy techniques are the best way to let the wonderful flavors of freshly picked local veggies and herbs to shine.
For just the recipe without so much talk, see HERE.