Them Winter Tomato Blues

Tomato_13I am something of a tomato snob. Is there anything worse than a February tomato? All pale and pasty, with no flavor at all. Yuck. I’ll wear white after labor day, but I certainly will not eat a fresh tomato.

Tomato_15But while I wait for those perfect plump rubies of summer, I need something to tide me over. Canned tomatoes aren’t half bad for things like sauces and soups, but at the end of the day they’re just not the real deal.

Enter the roasted tomato. Summer tomatoes are glorious when roasted, but guess what: stupid winter tomatoes, disgusting as they are when fresh, are fantastic after an hour or so in the oven.

Tomato_26Tomato_32This recipe is delicious, requires just five ingredients, is largely hands-off–so you can start it and forget about it–and so easy that even The Boy can make it when I’m working late. Plus it has a great shelf life. I love the little cherry heirlooms from Trader Joe’s, but they usually mold before I remember to use them. I’ve started popping them in the oven as soon as I get home, and then storing them for a quick dinner another day.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

You’ll need:

Tomatoes (I used two containers of heirloom cherries from Trader Joe’s, but ANY tomato will work)

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

1 head of garlic (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 325*. Chop the tomatoes. For cherries, in half should suffice, for larger varieties aim for approximately one inch cubes. If using, chop off the root end of the garlic, but leave the cloves unpeeled.

2) Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer in a shallow baking dish or cookie sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and fresh cracked pepper, then drizzle with oil. If I’m using the tomatoes right away for pasta, I use quite a bit of oil, so that it pools in the bottom of the dish, getting infused with tomato and garlic flavor. If the tomatoes are getting saved for later, or if I’m using them in a salad or risotto, I just give them a light drizzle. Nestle the garlic, cut side down, amongst the tomatoes.

3) Bake in the oven for about ninety minutes, or until they start to shrivel and crisp. Wait until the garlic cools a bit, and then give it a squeeze to release the gooey melted cloves within. Or, if you’re impatient like me, just do this with tongs. Serve over pasta, risotto, rice, quinoa, salad, or simply eat them with a spoon.

4) To save tomatoes for later, place in some kind of tupperware and cover with oil until mostly submerged. Use within ten days, although apparently these freeze pretty well.

*A note on temperature and cooking time: sometimes I need dinner ready in less than ninety minutes, so I raise the heat to 350 and cook for about 45 minutes. If they still need some extra time, I’ll bump it again to 375 for last little bit. But if you’ve got the time, they’re definitely better with the long and slow roast.

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