Growing Mouthwatering Veggies & Memories to Last a Lifetime!
by Sandra Magsamen
When my daughter was growing up, she and I were always in the garden. It was “our place” together. A place where we could reconnect, be creative, and plant seeds that grew into treasures. Once our veggies had blossomed and grown, it was time to cook. These hours spent experimenting with new recipes are some of our most cherished memories.
Our hours in the garden together were filled with laughter, and the longer we planted and dug in the dirt, the sillier we would become! My latest book, You’re My Little Sweet Pea is inspired by many of those fun, silly moments spent together. Lines featured in the book like, “I love you from your head to your toma-toes!” or “we make a great ‘pear’ / we’re as cute as can be!” are lines we would say to one another as we planted and weeded away!
As the years passed and my little girl grew into a woman, we have always made a point to return to the garden and then, ultimately, to the kitchen! Inspiring a love of growing and nurturing a garden and seeing the results of that diligent work is a gift that my own mother gave me, and I happily passed on to my little one. Especially in these uncertain times, I have found that time spent with our hands in the soil can be therapeutic and certainly gratifying! Moreover, creating a delicious meal from what you’ve grown that can be shared with family and friends couldn’t be more satisfying or heartwarming! I hope this story of our summer in the garden and in the kitchen with my own daughter inspires you and your little ones to get your hands dirty together, too!
This past summer, we were back in the garden again. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it became a big part of our days. Best practices asked and required all of us to stay put, socially distant, and do our part in slowing the virus. So, we stayed in the garden.
Let’s just say we had more time to sit and watch things in the garden this year. And we saw just how beautiful, intelligent, and graceful tomato plants are.
These gems reach towards the sky, stretch their roots underground, and before you know it, yellow flowers cover the vines. Then, that little yellow flower gives way and births a roundish green, adorable orb. The little baby tomato has been born. We love to talk to and encourage the baby tomatoes, give them lots of water and smile when the sun shines its warmth on them. And before we know it, they grow and grow and grow. The fruit turns yellow to orange and then that beautiful red that seems to say, “I’m ready!” Ta- daaa! The warm tomato slips from the vine into my hands and to the house where we must decide what it will become.
So many decisions…Will the tomato become a Caprese salad with fresh basil, mozzarella, and olive oil? Will it become part of a savory tomato tart? Would it prefer to be mixed in with peppers, onions, and cilantro for a snappy salsa? Or is a big pot for marinara sauce calling its name?
That summer, we had so many tomatoes that all of the questions were answered with a YES! But, of all the recipes we made with these precious tomatoes, our favorite was the marinara sauce. The recipe is simple (see below).
We freeze our marinara sauce, and each time we take it from the freezer to use, we will think of the people who shared the warm days with us, the summer nights filled with laugher and friendship, the quiet still mornings when the deer picked their heads up from the meadow as if to say, “I didn’t go in your garden last night!,” and the joy of harvesting those warm beauties together—straight from the vine!
When we plant a seed in the ground, we do so with hope. Hope that they will become what they are meant to be. But hope alone doesn’t do the job. Gardening reminds me that in order to grow anything, an idea, a friendship, or a tomato, we have to really take care of it, provide it with the stuff it needs to grow. Nurture it, believe in it, and love it.
I hope you love this recipe as much as we do! You can enjoy it over pasta, with eggplant or meatballs, but always enjoy it with friends and family too. Truth is, all food is more delicious when shared. Happy marinara making!
The Magsamen Marinara Sauce Recipe
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ onion, chopped
- 8 large tomatoes, peeled and cut into big chunks
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 tablespoon honey
- a handful of fresh basil
- a handful of oregano
- a pinch of salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon fennel seed
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Step 1: Begin by cutting a small X shape on the bottom of each tomato and placing them in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute to soften the skin. Then, place each tomato in an ice bath. Finally, peel off the softened skin.
- Step 2: Cut each tomato in half and scoop out all seeds.
- Step 3: Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook and stir onion in hot oil until softened, about 5 minutes; add tomatoes and garlic. Bring the liquid from the tomatoes to a boil, reduce to medium-low, and simmer mixture until tomatoes are softened, about 30 minutes or 40 minutes.
- Step 4: Stir red wine, honey, basil, oregano, salt, black pepper, fennel seed and crushed red pepper into tomato mixture; bring again to a simmer and cook until herbs have flavored the sauce, about 30 minutes more.
- Step 5: Using a handheld mixer (or blender), mix until you have created a chunky puree.
- Step 6: Share with the people you love!