Growing up in Virginia, with its beautifully changing seasons and abundance of local produce, I have developed certain food craving patterns. Tomatoes are at the top of my seasonal cravings list. For most of fall and all of winter, I dream of perfectly ripe tomatoes just picked and still warm from the sun. As soon as the last frost thaws, I can’t wait to get my hands dirty and plant some. And every spring, without fail, I develop amnesia and decide that it’s a great idea to plant way too many tomato plants. My crazy, tomato-deprived side says, “Why plant just one??!” and my logical side falls for it every time.
So, at some point during the summer I have tomatoes of all different shapes and sizes coming out of my ears. While I would never consider this a problem, it is certainly a situation that needs to be dealt with. I do the obvious and toss them in salads, add them to sandwiches (BLTs anyone?), throw them into various pasta dishes, and frequently make my son’s favorite: Caprese salad. But I also try to come up with new, creative recipes of my own. I made a fantastic rustic tomato soup a few summers ago… of course I’ve made marinara sauce and fresh salsa… but my favorite creation came to me this summer when, after a few days of being ignored, my roma and cherry tomato plants were bursting with ripe fruit. I stood staring at my tomato-covered counter top, waiting for inspiration to strike… and boy did it. I’m still patting myself on the back.
With sun-dried tomatoes in mind, I created something even better. I thought about calling them “oven dried” but they aren’t dry at all. So, I settled on “slow roasted” and never looked back.
Now, obviously I used fresh summertime tomatoes, but this would be a great way to transform the less than desirable supermarket tomatoes we are forced to buy in the fall and winter—something I am definitely planning on doing, and I hope you will too.
Slow Roasted Tomatoes
- Lots of smaller tomatoes such as roma, cherry, or grape, halved-about 8 cups (they shrink after roasting)
- 1/4 cup Olive oil
- salt and pepper
- pinch or two of red pepper flakes to taste
- fresh herbs, oregano and thyme are my favorites
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and very thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Toss gently to coat the tomatoes and spread the entire mixture evenly on a large rimmed baking sheet(s). You want an even layer with no overlapping.
Roast for 2-6 hours, gently tossing occasionally (or just shake and rotate the pan). The time is broad, I know, but it depends on the juiciness and size of your tomatoes and your oven. The tomatoes will shrink and their juices will dry slightly. Don’t take them too far; you want them to still have some juiciness. This really needs to be judged by eye, so just check on them occasionally.
Enjoy straight from the oven, or transfer, along with all juices and herbs, to a mason jar or other storage container, cover with more olive oil and store in refrigerator.
Note-The olive oil will harden upon refrigeration. Allow refrigerated tomatoes to sit at room temperature for 30-40 minutes before using.
Serving suggestion (and THE reason to make these tomatoes…)
Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese Crostini
- Baguette, or any good bread, sliced 1/4 inch thick on an angle
- Oven roasted tomatoes
- Fresh goat cheese
- Fresh basil
Drizzle or brush bread slices lightly with olive oil, and either toast in a 350 degree oven 10-15 minutes, or gently toast in a grill pan or skillet until lightly golden on both sides, but still tender in the middle. Transfer to a platter and smear with a tablespoon or two of goat cheese, top with oven roasted tomatoes, and sprinkle with fresh chopped basil. Enjoy!