The Revealing, Secret Diaries of a Not-So-Secret Foodie


In Faith, Family, Food, Garden, Photography, Writing on January 6, 2016 at 5:15 pm

Garden Harvest of San Marzanos

Spring’s ground holds such promise.  Black earth rested.  Ready for new life. Working the soil, strong hands turn heavy dirt. Broken free from winter’s hold, it tumbles loose through pitchfork tines.  Falling first, but landing soft and crumbling fine.  Good earth; the sower’s open canvas. Painted in strokes of hope, patience and endurance. Loved into yields of multiplying abundance.

tomatoe closeup
I’ve always been an organized gardening type. Drawn to admire the formal gardens of centuries old.  Clipped and hedged to absolute perfection.  Box woods in neat rows outlining secret mazes.   Or a prized, but hidden rose garden. Perhaps those imagined or more likely inspired into my consciousness.  Sprung to life off the worn pages of a beloved English novel or two.

But this year cool temperatures, heavy rains and a three-boy-busy spring schedule delayed our backyard garden plans. Hitting our favorite growing spots late, our trunk was sparsely populated with the saddest specimens.  The last remaining tomato plants of the season’s supply, scraggly, yellowing and small.  Not what I wanted.  Not what I wanted at all.

green tomatoes

Fortunately my husband, more the realist and pragmatic gardener, plopped our trunk load of seedlings into the ground. In sunshine next to the bricked chimney, the spot my grandmother reminds each year is the place in our yard where tomatoes do best. Not the spot I’d like them best, but the place where they thrive.

Then his attention turned to some struggling volunteer tomato sprouts, nestled beneath boughs of a droopy pine.  Growing wild, taking root where they had landed.   Seeds from discarded fruit of the previous year’s harvest. With care he dug, wiggling the roots free. Transplanting each into a waiting white-washed garden box. Partly shaded but full of black and well-tended soil. Not knowing how they’d fare or what variety would blossom we hoped for the best.

tomatoes with rosemary2

The garden center seedlings sheltered too long and planted late never fully adjusted to conditions outside of the nursery despite being placed in the sunniest spot. They grew, blossomed and produced fruit. But frost came and they never had time to ripen on their own while on the vine.  We picked nine pounds of green tomatoes. Fried green tomatoes were enjoyed.  And pints of pickled green tomatoes were canned and stored or shared.

Surprising to me was how well the volunteer plants took to their new environment. Growing tall and over reaching the boundary of the garden spilling into the neighbor’s yard.  Providing a never-ending supply of sweet fruit throughout the summer and into fall.  It seemed that once rooted in good soil the struggle to grow into the light made them more productive and abundant.  Funny the lessons of faith and parenting that can be observed in your backyard.  Sometimes quietly found in the humble form of an unripened tomato.

My next recipe selection is a simple sauce.  This sauce is amazing. Not only in it’s simplicity but in the complexity of flavor from only four ingredients. I was skeptical. How can a sauce taste good with absolutely no garlic? No oregano and no cooking all day over a low flame?  But it is. Simple & Wonderful. And Easy to pull together for your hungry crew.

Marcella Hazen’s “The Sauce” found in the New York Times


1 28-ounce can San Marzano Tomatoes (Do not go cheap here. These will be about 3.50 to 4.99 per can)

1 Onion. Peeled and cut in half (I like Sweet Vidalia but Spanish or yellow will also work well)

1 tsp salt

5 tablespoons butter (use Real Butter)

Melt butter and place two halves of onion cut side down in melted butter. Cook for minute or so. Pour canned tomatoes into pan. Stir. Next add 1 teaspoon salt. Stir & simmer over low flame for about 45-50 minutes. Remove onions. Discard them or eat, your choice.

Sauce is enough for one pound of pasta.  If sauce gets too thick, thin with 1/2 cup of chicken stock. We like to serve over Bucatini. Top with chopped fresh Basil and grated Parmigiano Reggiano. And be prepared to be WOW-ed.

  1. Sue you are an awesome writer. Love it

    Sent from my iPad


    • Thank you for your continued encouragement. More writing in 2016. That’s my goal. xo

  2. I think I love your stories most of all! 😉

  3. This was great !

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Hi Susan (sorry it’s a habit I’m still trying to break), it’s so nice to reconnect…you’re my first reply to a blog! I’m so happy to see you’ve found something that combines many of your passions. That’s the way I felt at school when we first met. Keep up the great ‘job’.

  5. […] I first learned about the San Marzano tomato variety grown near Naples–a must when making  Marcella Hazen’s Sauce, although she would probably insist on fresh or flash frozen.   Great cookbooks are something I […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: