Strip show

Cook’s Illustrated is out with its late summer (i.e. “September and October”) issue and recipes for “flavor-packed fresh tomato sauces.” I thought I’d take a whack at the rosemary-and-bacon version (rejecting the salami, pepperoncini, and mozzarella/fennel and orange variations).

The test kitchen blithely advises peeling, seeding and chopping tomatoes before starting on the sauce. The only problem: I’ve never peeled a tomato. An Internet consultation quickly revealed these instructions. Tomatoes, the page advises, are traditionally skinned by quick immersion in boiling water. But “even better is a quick scorching of the skins over a gas flame, the tomato stuck on the tines of a fork.”

Who doesn’t relish the chance to hold food over an open flame?

Twenty minutes and much open flaming later, I was still working on the last few tomatoes. The skin, even-post toasting, peeled off in a zillion annoying little strips. Out of frustration, I double flame-treated the remaining few tomatoes, and, to my surprise and relief, found that the double application did a lot of good. Big flaps of skin peeled off easily.

My initial goal of “have dinner on the table by the time the fiance returns from work” was grudgingly revised to “have tomatoes peeled and chopped by the time the fiance returns from work, or, say, 5-10 minutes after that.” It was a goal met only with some difficulty and good deal of inspired cursing.

The Cook’s Illustrated recipe, incidentally, is terrific. The marriage of zesty, acidic fresh tomatoes, the comforting warmth of bacon and the piquant, buttery flavor of fresh parmesan mixed in with spaghetti was absolutely heavenly.