Whenever I want a simple, tasty breakfast, weekend dinner, or late night supper, I pull out some tomatada, a classic Portuguese tomato sauce I always have on hand. This is a riff on a traditional recipe, but instead of firing up the oven for just an egg or two, as the original requires, I make it on the stove. Less than 15 minutes later, I'm sitting down to eat.
1. Warm the tomato sauce in a small nonstick skillet, covered, over medium high heat, until it's bubbly and hot, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, stir, and then make two wells in the sauce with the back of a spoon. Crack an egg into each well and simmer, covered, until the eggs are cooked, 5 to 8 minutes.
2. To serve, lightly rub the toast with the garlic, drizzle with a thin thread of oil, and place on plates. Scoop an egg and some tomato sauce on top of each slice, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
This recipe is simplicity itself. I make it when fire-engine red tomatoes are tumbling off tables at the local farmers' market. But in a pinch, you can use canned tomatoes -- many Portuguese prefer them, in fact. For a sauce with the smack of heat favored in the Trás-os-Montes region, as well as the Azores, drop in the optional chile pepper.
1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the onions, parsley, and bay leaf, and cook until golden, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more.
2. Turn the heat to medium-low, stir in the tomatoes and their liquid, the tomato paste, and chile pepper, if using, and simmer, cover ajar, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, about 30 minutes. Toss the parsley and bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper. If you wish, you can scrape the sauce into a food processor and buzz until smooth. Store the sauce in the fridge in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid for 1 week. It can be frozen up to 2 months.
From The New Portuguese Table by David Leite. Copyright © 2009. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.
"Vegetables are perishable, so we don't have any indication of what they looked like 500 years ago," says James Nienhuis, a professor in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Wisconsin.