october 1, 2013
When you are given a gift of late season tomatoes, you have only two choices; you can eat them all right away, or make them last longer by preserving them for later enjoyment.
I adore a good tomato salad, but tastebud fatigue sets in after a couple or three, so I opted for the latter choice and roasted them slowly, my crimson gifts from generous neighbors who grow them naturally without benefit of chemicals.
There is wide variation in roasting methods for tomatoes, but most do employ a good extra virgin olive oil, salt to enhance flavor and various herbs like garlic and greenery.
Roasting at very low temperatures can take many hours, but the yield is a nice red tomato with dry texture and concentrated sweetness, unburnished by browning. Roasting at high temperatures is a riskier venture and charred bits may taste burnt and bitter.
I find that 350 degrees is the happy medium, giving a firm tomato with a hint of char and herbs that don’t suffer from incineration. Fine Cooking has a nice article about this method, and it served as the inspiration for today’s recipe. The author asserts that long term storage is possible by freezing and I can attest to these concentrated tomatoes lasting well in the fridge for at least one week. I have used them in salads, in pasta and eaten them all by their lonesome – all good.
This may be blasphemy, but I confess to using this slow roasting technique on grape and plum tomatoes purchased out of season, when my longing for tomato flavor trumps my wish to keep my cooking seasonal – and the results have been gratifying. Tossed with roasted Italian sausage rounds and fresh pasta, these tomatoes grant vitality to what seems mundane and safe. They are also fabulous spread on toast rounds with a dab of good goat cheese.
Preparation is easy. Simply cut out the stem end with a paring knife and adorn with garlic, herbs, balsamic vinegar, salt and olive oil. Large tomatoes may take three or four hours, but smaller ones (like those pictured here) or plum tomatoes may be ready after two hours. You will want to see tomatoes that appear collapsed in the center and brownish at the edges.
These dreamy tomatoes would make a lovely accompaniment to margarita grilled flat iron steak with orange salsa or a colorful addition to my breakfast bistro salad.
slow roasted tomatoes with garlic and herbs
makes about one quart
4.5 pounds tomatoes (preferably petite), stem end removed and cut horizontally
1 cup plus 3 T extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, cut in thin slices
1/3 cup fresh marjoram leaves (or thyme, oregano, rosemary)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Line half sheet pan with rimmed sides (12 X 17 inches) with heavy duty foil.
- Spread 3 T olive oil on foil and place tomatoes close together on pan, cut sides up.
- Lightly sprinkle kosher salt on tomatoes, and drizzle lightly with balsamic vinegar.
- Evenly toss garlic slices and herbs atop tomatoes.
- Pour remaining cup of oil evenly over tomatoes.
- Bake – start testing at 1.5 hours, then every 15 minutes thereafter; look for collapsed centers and light browning at edges; better to cook longer with more browning instead of undercooking which will yield tomatoes that are too flabby.
- Smaller tomatoes will be done after 2-2.5 hours, and larger ones after 3-4 hours.
- When tomatoes have cooled to room temperature, pack them in glass containers for storage : about one week in the fridge, and longer in the freezer.