Grilled tomato and red pepper sauce

Grilled tomato and red pepper sauce

Here at The Ordinary’s obvious observation department, we have determined that sunshine feels good. These chilly mornings, when Isaac and I walk to school, we head to the sunny side of the street. When he doesn’t have pockets, he’ll put both of his smooth little hands into one of mine, and swing the whole way to school, which is bad for my back but good for my spirits. I love the feeling of passing from shade into sun on a cold morning. It’s such a small but powerful thing – like when somebody you love pats you on the back as they walk by, and it cheers you all out of proportion with the slightness of the gesture. One of my favorite things about this time of year is watching everybody bask in the sun. We saw a man riding on the back of a truck – standing on the side and holding on with one hand. He had his free arm stretched out, feeling the wind passing and the sun shining down. It must have felt like flying. It stuck in my memory as such a beautiful moment. In the mornings the bluejays gather in the top of the oak trees, where the sun seems to collect like a golden haze – and they eat green acorns and call to each other. I love the sight of vultures on the tops of buildings, lined up in a row facing the sun with their wings stretched out. It’s the simple things, I tell you!

And here’s a simple meal. My poor boys are subjected to so many strange and unlikely food combinations. Sometimes they beg for just a simple meal. One of their favorite is pasta with “smooth” tomato sauce. Well! We had an abundance of tomatoes, and perfect weather for a fire in the backyard. We piled tomatoes and red peppers on the grill and left them for a long time, turning them every once in a while, but basically forgetting about them till the fire went out. We peeled them a little, but left some of the charred peel on, and then we cooked them up into a smooth tomato sauce. The boys loved it! And so did we. It’s ridiculously adaptable. You could add any herbs you like, or olives and capers, or red wine, or shallots or onions, or any other vegetable you have lying around, or cheese. Anything, really! This would make a nice soup, as well, if you add some cream or broth.

Here are five different versions of Sunny Side of the Street!!

The quantities will depend on the amount of tomatoes and peppers you have. This is a good one to make lots of, and freeze for a day in winter when fresh tomatoes are just a fond memory. So act proportionately, and taste as you go.

5 or 6 tomatoes – any kind will do.
2 or 3 red peppers
2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 t rosemary
1 t thyme
1 t smoked paprika
1 T butter
1 t balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
sugar to taste (optional)

Cut the tops off the tomatoes and give them a gentle squeeze if they’re very seedy. Place them right on the grill, and place the peppers next to them. Grill, turning every once in a while, till the skins are blackened and the tomatoes are soft. Wrap them in foil, and leave them to cool till you can handle them. Peel off as much as the skin as will come easily. Some charred bits won’t hurt anything!) Remove the seeds from the peppers. Roughly chop everything.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic, thyme and rosemary. Cook for a minute or two, then add all of the tomatoes and peppers. Stir to coat with oil and spices. Add the paprika. Depending on the juiciness of your tomatoes, you can add a splash of water.

Bring everything to a boil, reduce heat and simmer till the tomatoes are soft and the flavors are blended – ten minutes, maybe.

Add the butter and balsamic, salt and pepper. Taste the broth – if it’s too bitter (it will depend on the sweetness of your tomatoes) add a teaspoon or so of sugar.

Purée till smooth, and use any way you’d use tomato sauce. We ate ours with penne.

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