This is a tale of a girl who bought green tomatoes—unripe! overly firm!— and turned a mess into a masterpiece. But let’s begin at the beginning.
Heidi Swanson over at www.101cookbooks.com recently posted a recipe for a gorgeous looking golden yellow tomato sauce. Inspired by the color more than anything, I headed over to La Costa Farms, a farm stand cum outdoor market that supplies farm fresh produce seven days a week. But instead of the glorious yellow featured in Heidi’s recipe, I found perfectly – if not gruesomely – gorgeous green heirloom tomatoes. They reminded me of something a troll living under a bridge in a Grimm’s brothers fairy tale might be pressed to eat, being a troll and not a functioning member of society and all.
It didn’t occur to me until the next day, however, that these tomatoes, while delightful to look at, were actually unripe (hence the green). Sure enough, one of the bunch was throwing off tell-tale shades of plum red, a sign, surely, of a further ripening to come. But since it was 5:00 and I had nothing else planned for dinner, I had to improvise.
And what an improvisation it was.
I loosely followed Heidi’s recipe over my own fave in that I included red pepper flakes and omitted black pepper, in an attempt to bring flavor to a tomato that while not exactly flavorless, didn’t exactly have the sweet taste of its ripened cousin, that show off, the red tomato.
Then I had what can only be called a revelation. Somewhere in the cobweb of my imagination sparked a dim flame of a reminder, that sugar, added to a sauce, makes it, obviously, sweeter. For some reason adding white sugar to my sauce seemed wrong. After all, I’d trekked all the way over to La Costa from Carlsbad, husband and Gonzo Girl in tow, to obtain these not ripe rejects of the tomato world. Surely these ugly beauties deserved more than a pinch of sugar, right?
And then I spied a pluot, an orb-like yellowish-greenish fruit that is the happy marriage of a plum and an apricot. Mine, I later learned, is called a Dapple Dandy. And having just consumed one in a fit of pre-dinner hunger, I knew it was the right amount of sweetness mixed with a firm texture to round out my dish and give it that little something something.
Whether through lack of time or trying or both, the tomatoes really never broke down the right way, and I also knew I didn’t want to heat the pluot and risk turning my sauce into jam, so I did what any devotee of the food processor would do: I dumped the entire pot of sauce into the Cuisinart, gave it a few whirls, and called it a success. (An immersion blender would work here, too.)
So for you, the passerby of green tomatoes, further confused by the hearty pluot, I give you this: a sweet, tangy tomato sauce that’s unlike anything you’ve ever tried. Makes enough to more than cover 10 ounces of pasta with extra to freeze.
Fresh Green Tomato Sauce
This surprisingly tangy sauce uses a pluot instead of sugar for sweetness, adding a hint of apricot where you least expect it. Because the sauce is yellower in color than traditional tomato sauce, consider pairing with a fresh basil pasta for a striking color combination.
2 lb. slightly unripe green tomatoes, preferably heirloom
1 greenish-yellow pluot (delightfully known as the Dapple Dandy)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
1. Start by halving the tomatoes, removing the seeds but retaining the core. Cut into roughly ½” pieces; set aside.
2. Halve the pluot and remove the seed; cut into roughly ½” pieces and set aside.
3. Place a medium sauce pan over medium high heat; add the oil, chopped garlic, salt and red pepper flakes.
4. Stir occasionally, until the garlic begins to brown and release its aromas.
5. Add the tomatoes; simmer until the tomatoes begin to soften and break down a bit; about 10-12 minutes.
6. Add the pluot; stir briefly and remove from heat.
7. Slightly puree the sauce using an immersion blender or food processor.
8. Taste and season as needed.
Inspired by a recipe by Heidi Swanson at www.101cookbooks.com.