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September 1, 2012

Slate: The right kind of tomato for your sauce

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — One of the consolations of these miserable dog days of summer is the abundance, in gardens and markets across the land, of ripe tomatoes; a season of suffering, sweating and involuntary naps seems to be the price nature exacts on us for perfection in her fruits. If you have a garden, even a small one, it can be tough to stay on top of things during the high times. A dozen ripe tomatoes can go to rot with alarming speed, and although stuffing your face to save your tomatoes from decay is about as much fun as sex for the sole purpose of procreation, you may nonetheless find yourself grimly dishing out tomato breakfasts, tomato lunches, tomato dinners; gorging robotically on salsa, salad, caprese, BLTs, cold tomato soup . . . There is a better way to deal with your excess, and it's not canning. (Come on — there's no way you're going to can all those tomatoes.) It's called "cooking them."

I don't have any hard numbers on how Americans consume their tomatoes, but I feel safe in conjecturing that by and large we eat the fresh ones raw and cook the canned ones. This at least was one of my best practices, a bit of uninterrogated conventional wisdom that I followed until recently, when my garden produced a sudden glut of Roma tomatoes. I'd always found Romas to be too mealy and bland for fresh eating, so I had no qualms about chopping them up to make a quick, simple sauce. I sliced a couple cloves of garlic — ineptly, with none of the Goodfellas-in-jail precision of Paul Sorvino — started them sautéing in olive oil, added the tomatoes with a pinch of salt and sugar and then, like a bad cook, left the kitchen and went about my business.

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