This past Saturday, while Token was busy hitting deer on an interstate in Utah (he's fine; the rental car is totaled; I didn't ask about Bambi because I don't want to know), I attended a MWR class on how to cook with tomatoes.
Unfortunately, however, I didn't walk away from the class with much more than a full belly. I had all of these envisions of taking great pictures of every step and posting a tutorial of sorts on here, but the guy basically threw a bit of this and a pinch of that and sometimes didn't even tell us what he was doing, so, I apologize that this post will not contain well-kept secrets of a Sicilian kitchen.
It will, however, contain pictures!
This is one of our 'teachers.' In this picture, he's transferring the oh-so-red, ripe, and yummy tomatoes from one tub of water to another. This is his cleaning process.
After that, he enlisted the help of some would-be chefs to get rid of the core of each tomato, squeeze the seeds out in a bucket and then transfer the now seedless but no less dignified tomato into a strainer. This was to make the tomato sauce.
After the squeezers squeezed the life out of no less than 500 tomatoes, he loaded the red fruit up in his heavy-duty blender and pureed the little suckers to a pulp. From there, he transferred the puree to his wood-burning oven to cook. He said that after 10 minutes, make sure it's boiling and then cook 10 more minutes. Simple! I think he might have added salt in there, too. Someone in the group asked if he added sugar too, and she got the look of death. Blasphemous is the Italian who uses sugar in his tomato sauce!
While the tomato sauce was boiling, we went to another part of the farm to help make sun-dried tomatoes. Oh sun-dried tomatoes, how I love thee. To make them, we used tomatoes that were bigger than cherry but smaller than plum and cut them in half, but not cutting all the way through. We then lay the not cut all the way through tomato on a wire sheet-like kind of thing.
(oh, and see those ones with the greenish looking seeds? They should have been tossed, as they do not make for good sun-dried tomatoes.)
After all the tomatoes were not cut all the way through, they were heavily, and I mean HEAVILY, doused with sea salt and left to sit in the sun for 24 hours. After 24 hours, you have to come back outside and roll the outsides of the tomatoes out, because the sun causes them to shrivel and want to hide. After 24 MORE hours, they are done. A piece of basil is then put on one side of the tomato and they close 'em up. They are then stored in glass jars filled with olive oil that has only ever touched terracotta, and only the very first olive oil that comes from the press. (I think... it was something like that, but I don't remember the specifics)
So, after we essentially did this lady's work for the day (ha! kidding!), we returned to the outdoor kitchen to eat. The chef had made a traditional Sicilian ragu sauce, but it had meat so I passed. The sauce had to cook for two hours, so he had already started on it when we got there, so I don't have pictures of that process. So sorry!
We also ate some bruschetta, which is probably my most favorite Italian food of all time. The bread was toasted and delish, the tomatoes were diced up and mixed with garlic, onion, basil, olive oil and salt and pepper, and it was just yum. I tried to take a picture, but ate my piece so fast that there wasn't anything left to photograph. We also ate pasta with the tomato sauce from the smooshed tomatoes. Oh, and he served some kind of sausage, no idea what it was because sausage and I are not friends, but everyone else seemed to enjoy it!
The farm we went to is an agriculture farm, and they grow pretty much all of their own food. He gets his meat from his father who owns cows and chickens (for eggs) and it's just all very organic. This farm in particular is in the olive oil making industry and sell their flavored olive oils on base. We have a few at home and they are really good - especially the garlic and rosemary flavors.
And finally, here are three pictures that have nothing to do with tomatoes, but are from the farm and I just like them, so deal with it!
I don't know which I like better, so you get them both.
This Thursday there's a 'how to make homemade pasta' class that I'm tempted to go to. We'll see. I'd have to write about it for the paper, which makes it somewhat trickier because you have to take pictures and listen to the instructions at the same time. Now, while I can walk and chew gum at the same time, this is a bit different and would be for publication, so there's just a bit more pressure. I don't know... I'm intimidated by it! If it were just for fun and for the blog, I'd be all for it, but for the paper, I'd need the step-by-step process, and, as you can see above, it's tough, especially when the chef doesn't tell you anything he's doing! I'd have some angry Sigonellans knocking on my door for not giving them the correct flour to egg ratio or something. And my fragile ego just can't deal with that.