Summer time is tomato time, and not just for salads. Slow-roast some to taste the depth and sweetness of all their flavors.
In Middle East open-air markets, we now see piles of ripe tomatoes. And since they’re seasonal and cheap, we enjoy them raw and sliced into all kinds of salads, sometimes cooking them when we need a tomato sauce for pasta or pizza. Another delicious twist on tomatoes is slow-roasting them. The long roast at a low temperature caramelises the fruit’s natural sugars, bringing out deep flavors that add another taste dimension to omelets, sandwiches, stews, even breads. And yes, to salads too.
Pre-heat the oven to 120°C – 250°F.
Take any quantity of ripe, red tomatoes. With the tip of a knife, cut the green stem end out of each one, pulling out a little triangular plug of core.
Halve the tomatoes and squeeze the gel and seeds out of each half.
Place the seeded tomato halves on a baking tray, cut side up. Sprinkle salt, and grind pepper, into the hollow halves. Drizzle with good olive oil.
That’s it, the tomatoes are ready to roast. But wait – here’s where you can season the tomatoes with some of those interesting dry or fresh herbs you keep around.
Do you have dry oregano or za’atar? Rub some between your palms to crumble it and sprinkle over the tomatoes. Is there basil in your fridge, rosemary growing in a windowsill pot? Chop up a little – it doesn’t take much – and smash a clove or two of garlic along with it. Spoon 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of the fresh herb mixture into the hollows of the tomatoes. Salt again, lightly.
Now put the loaded baking tray into the oven, shut the door, and come back in about four hours. Roasting time may vary according to your oven. A delicious aroma will arise in the kitchen about 2 hours into the roasting, but don’t take the tomatoes out yet (you’re allowed to peek, though). The tomatoes should be moist, slightly leathery at the edges but not dried out. There should be a small amount of liquid in the baking tray.
Once cooled, store them in a clean, dry glass jar and keep refrigerated. They will last up to two weeks.
Now, what do you do with these gourmet tomatoes?
- Layer one or two halves into a sandwich, with other fillings.
- Chop and add some to a cheese omelet or scrambled eggs
- Top pizza or bruschetta with grated mozzarella and roasted tomato halves
- Drop a couple into any stew 15 minutes before the end of cooking time
- Coarsely chop and add 3 halves to a quiche filling
- Add 4 chopped halves to your next batch of bread (add some chopped scallions, too)
- Serve them plain as mezze, with olives and another raw salad vegetable or two
Photo of slow-roasted tomatoes by Miriam Kresh, www.israelikitchen.com