Francis originally published this recipe in a post for Salon. As with his recipe for Ginger Scallion Sauce, his exuberant and unusual approach to recipe writing makes it sing. As does the accompanying video.
He is not kidding when he tells us to let the sauce cook a really, really long time after you've added the tomatoes. The longer the better. We did short-cut the cooking time in one test so we could make an appointment. It was still delicious.
One more thing: This recipe was tested with out-of-season ingredients and it still rocked the boat. I can’t even imagine how good this will be in September.
1. Start by cooking the garlic, shallots and onion in the 1/2 cup of olive oil over medium-low to low heat in a heavy pot, so that they soften and give up their liquid. Stir and try not to let them brown. (Meanwhile, cut the other vegetables; you’ll be waiting a while.) Season lightly with salt and pepper.
2. Once they become a pale, golden, sticky mess, add the puréed red peppers and let it get all nice and friendly. Season lightly with salt and pepper. The peppers should have a ton of water, so let it cook down, stirring every few minutes to make sure nothing gets too caramelized and burned, until — after God knows how long — you’ll have a rich, rusty jam.
3. To which, of course, you’ll add your load of puréed tomatoes. Bring it to a boil, and turn it way down to let that baby snooze off all its liquid. Season lightly with — guess what? — salt and pepper. You’ve probably already been cooking for an hour or more at this point. You’re not even close to being there yet. You’re concentrating its sugar and tartness, and it’s going to be all umami-oooo-Mommy. It’s worth it. Around this time, fire up your oven to 450. Stir the tomatoes occasionally, just so they don’t burn at the bottom.
4. Meanwhile, toss the zucchini with salt, pepper and olive oil. Taste a piece. Doesn’t it taste good? It’s going to be even better after you roast it hard in one layer on a baking tray. After the sizzling starts to slow down in the oven, take a peek. Are you getting some nice browning underneath? Great. Take it out, let it cool a bit before putting it in a big bowl and do it again until you run out of squash. Then do the same with the eggplant, putting it in the same bowl, and let them wait for the minister to their wedding.
5. When the 6 pounds of stuff you cooked in the tomato pot can be packed into a pint of good-God-DAMN goodness, it will have flavor that doesn’t quit — a finish that lasts forever. You’ll know it’s ready when it gives the oil back up, it makes squishy noises when you stir it, and when you taste it and suddenly want to punch a hole in the wall.
6. Now you’re ready to finish. Chop up some thyme and basil, as much as you like (I like a lot. Shocker.), and stir the herbs into the tomato base. Carefully combine the tomato with the rest of the vegetables so that you don’t mash up your zucchini and eggplant. It’s victory lap time. Stick a spoon into it and feed it to people you love. Then wrap it up tightly and let it sit in the fridge for a day; it’ll be even better tomorrow — the flavors meld, the herbs work their way through the whole thing. Just let it come back to room temperature when you serve it, to your favorite people and maybe with some cheese and bread, and try not to break too much furniture.
Keeps in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. It does freeze well, though, if you fill up the container so there’s not much air in it and wrap it tightly in several layers of plastic wrap. Let it thaw in the fridge, and it’ll still be awesome in the dead of winter, when tomatoes taste about as good as tennis balls.
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Francis Lam is the host of The Splendid Table. He is the former Eat columnist for The New York Times Magazine and is Editor-at-Large at Clarkson Potter. He graduated first in his class at the Culinary Institute of America and has written for numerous publications. Lam lives with his family in New York City.