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Pasta-inspired spread enhances tomatoes

The season may be turning, but garden tomatoes are at their most numerous.

I’ve peeled and frozen tomatoes, made salsa and relish, sliced them for sandwiches, tossed them in salads and stirred them into about every pasta, bean and grain dish I can devise. And they keep coming!

Granted, it takes all these months of anticipation and rationing the first tomatoes to finally indulge indiscriminately and then eventually weary of their flavor. We haven’t reached that point quite yet. But when we do, there’s likely another batch of this puttanesca-inspired crostini in store.

I paired this spread several weeks ago with fresh albacore transported home from my family’s vacation on the Oregon coast. Lacking that seasonal delicacy, a good-quality, oil-packed tuna could complement — or substitute — for the anchovies called for here. Just pile the chunks of tuna atop the sauced toast.

Fresh tomatoes are an easy swap for canned, as I did. And given such fresh, flavorful fruits, I also skipped the cooking time for this and simply mixed up the ingredients like bruschetta topping. If you go that route, finely dice the anchovies, or consider choosing anchovy paste.

Reminiscent of caponata, this dish shares in common its olives and capers, omitting the eggplant. That relish is another of my favorite ways with blemished tomatoes and puny garden eggplants. It also freezes well.

Tribune News Service photo

Puttanesca Crostini

8 ounces olive oil

4 or 5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 (2-ounce) can anchovies fillets in oil, drained

2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

6 ounces pitted Kalamata olives, chopped

2 ounces capers, rinsed

1 (28-ounce) can chopped Italian tomatoes, or whole, crushed by hand

1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped

1 loaf crusty bread, thinly sliced and toasted

In a medium sauce pot over medium, heat the olive oil When oil is hot, add the garlic, anchovies and red pepper flakes. Saute until fragrant, for about 1 to 2 minutes. (Anchovies will melt as they cook).

Add the chopped olives and capers and saute for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the canned tomatoes with their juices, stir to combine and then stew sauce for 90 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally. Once stewed it should be pretty thick, and most water should evaporate.

Add the chopped parsley and check for seasoning; add salt if necessary.

Transfer sauce to a serving bowl and serve with the toasted bread.

Makes about 3 cups sauce.