Yes, that’s me pictured in hot rollers by the stove with a friend. Looks like a snap shot from the 1950’s, right? Well, there’s actually a cute story behind it (at least I think so!).
You see, Lynn and I have known each other for years and I’ve always thought she had the best hair! We’ve grown quite close, chit chatting together in the gym, watching our sons compete in gymnastics, carpooling together and doing a lot of talking on the phone throughout the many challenging years of being gymnastic moms. Our relationship has centered on our sons and their favorite sport, as we’ve supported one another through coach changes, competition debacles and new gyms. To put it simply, we’ve been gym friends.
Lynn however, has always known about my other life, the one that takes place in the kitchen. She’s seen me, sauce-splattered and frazzled, swing by to pick her son up for our drive down the Garden State Parkway. And she’s commented more than a few times that she’d like to try cooking with me.
So, when she was about to bring her 4-year old son over to play with my little one, I went out on a limb and sent her a last minute text: “Want to cook?” (Thinking, why should our play date be any different than with any of my other friends, I thought I’d give it a try.) She responded with an enthusiastic “yes” and we decided to make some Sunday gravy. (She may call it gravy and I call it sauce, but they both start with tomatoes in a pot.)
But how did I get in those silly looking hot rollers you may wonder? Well, when we were planning our ingredient list and discussing what Lynn should bring with her for our maiden cooking date, I was reminded of a scene in the book I had just read, Cherries in Winter, where Nana traded beauty secrets for kitchen tips. I guess the idea was in the back of my mind.
I asked Lynn to bring her rollers to divulge her beauty secret of perfectly thick, wavy and gorgeous hair. She laughed and couldn’t believe my request, but when she was unloading her canned tomatoes onto my kitchen table, out came her hot rollers, which she later plugged in and placed in my hair.
After two hours, we each had a delicious pot of homemade tomato sauce, Lynn got to sample what cooking with friends was like and I had a gorgeous hairstyle for the afternoon. As I walked Lynn to her car, I could tell that Lynn felt accomplished as she realized that now her Sunday wouldn’t need to be spent making gravy. Our boys, who gave each other big departing hugs, also had a great time together. As for me, with my expertly styled hair blowing in the breeze, I felt like a glamour girl, more than ready to pick my 4th grade daughter up at the corner bus stop.
Lynn decided my hair looked so good that I should stick rollers in before every cooking date. She thought it was the ideal time to get myself looking fabulous for the day. What’s more, she also said she was looking forward to our next cooking date!
Slow Simmered Tomato Sauce
Makes 2 ½ quarts
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (preferably mild and not too briny or spicy)
12 large garlic cloves, minced
4 16-ounce cans whole San Marzano tomatoes, tomatoes separated from liquid
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
3 or 4 dashes hot sauce (optional)
8 ounces fresh basil (about 2 large bunches) washed, stemmed, and sliced into strips
Heat the olive oil in a 5-quart pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and golden, about 2 minutes.
Add the reserved tomato juice and bring it to a simmer. While the liquid comes to a simmer, tear the tomatoes into pieces and add them to the pot. Stir in the sugar, salt, red pepper, and hot sauce (if using). Add the basil, stir, and cover the pot.
Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cook about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. If after 2 hours the sauce looks thin, remove the lid, increase the heat to medium, and let it cook down for a bit. Cool to room temperature and divide into plastic containers or freezer bags.