Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tomato Love!

It's late August. If you garden, I'm guessing your countertops swelling under the weight of tomatoes. Or, if you are crazy like me, you've bought a 25 pound box of plum tomatoes for sauce.  And then people keep giving you more. But good gravy, I hope you haven't refrigerated them. As my chef friend Jason Hook says, vegetables DIE in the refrigerator. I would add that some veg-deaths-by-fridge are slower than others. Tomatoes, though, get watery and gross in there, and right quick. But I digress.....

Here's something you can do with them. You can take them, no matter what their size, shape or taste, and roast them. Wash them, slice them in half, toss them in a big bowl with anywhere between 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and you are good to go. You can then use them in myriad ways. Eat them smeared on toasted ciabatta, rubbed with garlic. Toss them with pasta and other fresh tomatoes for a multi-layered tomato experience. Puree them. Mix them with eggs. Eat them with a spoon off the roasting pan (that's partly what I did.). Toss them with other veggies and beans for a very impromptu one-pot veggie-laden meal (I did that, too). Freeze them in 2-cup increments so that you can pull them out, like a champ, in the middle of winter and add them to soups, stews, sauces, chilis, and so forth. (Also done). You don't even really have to defrost them, if you don't want to, but you could certainly do that in the fridge. But seriously. They're going to give off water anyway, and you'll need some for the cooking process, so don't fret. Food is more forgiving than perhaps we all realize.

Tomatoes! Any shape, size or color
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
1-2 tsp. cane sugar or maple syrup (I have also used agave nectar)** This is optional
1/2 tsp to 1 tsp. salt and a few cracks of fresh ground black pepper

1. Set your oven to 350 Fahrenheit
2.  Slice those tomatoes in half and toss them in a big bowl. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, salt, pepper and optional sugar. If you include sugar, it's just going to accentuate the sweetness, but it's not necessary. Pour over the tomatoes and toss gently to combine.
3. Roast the tomatoes in the oven on rimmed baking sheets for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of the tomatoes. You'll see them start to get blistery, shrink a bit around the edges and get a little bit caramelized. Bingo!
4. Remove from the oven and let them cool to room temperature before putting them in the fridge for nearly immediate consumption or a zip top bag for freezer storage. Make sure you get in all those good, sweet olive oil juices--including some of the burny bits that develop as they roast. It's all flavor. Don't let it go to waste!

Roasting is especially attractive when you find you have a few that are starting to turn and you may not be able to eat all of them immediately. In less than an hour, you can make short work of those super ripe tomatoes and have the components of a dish for the middle of winter. (Or, as in the case of last night's dinner, three hours later.)  If you want to store them in the fridge, wait until they've cooled to room temperature and then transfer them to an airtight container. They'll keep for about a week, but you'll likely eat them up before then.

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