This was a good year for tomatoes.
As the nights are cooling and the days are getting shorter, the overgrown three tomato plants in my backyard are heavily-laden, madly producing fruit as a last, desperate attempt to pro-create and leave plenty of seed behind. If I am attentive and cover the plants diligently as cold weather and snow arrive (October is often snowier in intermittent dumps in Colorado than in December), I could still be eating tomatoes at Thanksgiving time. We've done it before. They aren't like mid-summer eatings: sweet and juicy and huge, but rather make good Fried Green slices and mock-apple pie.
But right now, as summer has morphed into a picture perfect Autumn with cool mornings and crisp nights, bright sunlight and north winds – there is an abundance. By now, we've worn people out with gifts of tomato and have to make several trips to carry in the daily harvest. So right now is the perfect time to slow-roast these beauties into rich, intensified bolts of flavor for use in millions of other ways.
At the hospital for the annual "m" a week ago or so, I picked up a special fall issue of a gourmet magazine and tried their recipe for roasted tomatoes. I have done it twice now and will probably use almost all of the rest of the '07 bounty this way:
- 350-degree oven
- Spritz the bottom of 2 glass cake pans with non-stick spray (olive-oil flavored, if you have it)
- Cut medium to large sized tomatoes in half on the hemisphere and place them, cut side up, in the pan. They should be touching and "crowded" in the pan. It took 12-15 tomatoes for me to fill 2 glass cake pans.
- Drizzle generously with olive oil. All slices should get some!
- Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of Balsamic vinegar per pan over the top.
- Sprinkle 1 tablespoon per pan with dry Italian seasoning or oregano or basil to your liking
- Generous salt and pepper, garlic salt is good here.
- Yesterday, I threw in whole cloves of garlic for the roasting, too
- Set your timer for 2 1/2 hours. When it goes off, leave them in the hot oven for at least another 1/2 hour.
- Keep all drippings for storing your roasted tomatoes
Your house will smell like heaven. When you scoop a bite into your mouth, your tastebuds will swell as if liquid sun filled with the flavor of a thousand summer tomatoes just dropped on your tongue.
The tomatoes cook down from 12-15 nice-sized fruit to a sandwich-bag full of menu potential.
You can eat them just as they are – hot and dripping with flavor (for the bold and courageous only) or toss them with hot pasta and freshly grated parmesan. You can use it as a Bruschetta spread or smear it onto a pizza crust instead of sauce and anything you put over the top will be the better for it. Yesterday I loaded the top of a rising-not-yet-baked homemade foccacia bread with the tomato and oil mixture – divine! They would light up an antipasto platter making the other ingredients seem anemic by comparison and I have heard they are good in a cold pasta salad, but mine haven't made it that far, yet.
The photo above, swiped off the internet, doesn't really represent how mine look – turning black at the edges near the end of the roasting: carmelizing…tantalizing…enthralling…
Don't can them ever. Don't freeze them yet. Roast them, my friends. For the love of the tomato, roast them!
Jeanie, a tomato lover…
ODD OBSERVATION: It occurs to me that a woman at the halfway mark is much like a roasted tomato: the red is deeper, more multi-dimensional, the original fruit is somewhat of a memory, but she is richer in taste and fragrance. She adds more to every dish and is better preserved for the future.
NOTE TO SELF: It is ok to be a roasted tomato.
From Amy Grant's upcoming book, Mosaic, "The beauty of being in the middle of life is the vantage point it provides…Even from here I can see growing old is not for the cowardly." p.117 (www.amygrant.com)