I love tomatoes. This is no lie. They are so versatile, wouldn't you agree? I mean they make ketchup, they make tomato sauce, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, marinara sauce, puttanesca sauce, not to mention supplying the base for luscious soups and stews, chilis, and stuffed they are a delicious side dish, and simply sliced with balsamic and olive oil and maybe some basil and maybe fresh burrata cheese and olives if you have em, they're a slice o' heaven. They are the epitome of August and late hot summer weather, one of my most favourite times of the year. And so, it seems to me we should somehow bottle this late summer hazy feeling, no?
Witness: the slow roasted tomato.
THE HOW-TO: Buy tomatoes in bulk from that farm stand on the way home, or from your Farmers' Market, or your neighbour who planted 52 tomato plants this year. I buy 120 pounds of tomatoes every year. Call me loopy, I love them that much. The cases come in 20 pound increments, so load up on what you think you'll be able to handle before they go bad. I do this with all kinds of tomatoes, but find the romas have more meat and less water in them, so give me what I prefer in the end. Wash a shwack of them (yes, it's this scientific and exact, kids). Slice in half. Plunk them in dishes or cookie sheets cut side up, sprinkle with some sea salt and pepper, and pop in the oven at 295F for about 4 hours, until they look leathered and dried out. I boosted it to 320F for that last hour myself, as I thought it was taking a bit too long. The secret here though is to go fairly low and slow, meaning you're going to roast the water right out of the tomato, and concentrate those tomatoey flavours, caramelizing them a bit as they cook. You could add a good quality olive oil here if you were going slow, or garlic, or herbs too if you wanted to flavour, but I do them plain so that I can add flavour later, depending on what these gems will become. And I don't cook them in fat (gasp! I know! I go on and on about fat!) but I know that when I will be using them up in a dish along the way, I will certainly be adding fat at that point, so fret not friends, fat will come in to the picture along the way.
In the past, I have popped these half tomatoes right into freezer bags and into the freezer (waiting for them to cool before handling them) and that has worked. But this year, I opted to blitz them all in my blender, skin and all, waited until they cooled, and froze them in little one-cup batches. The flavour is so intense in these tomatoes, I am looking forward to adding them to whatever strikes my fancy down the road, and really bottle that hot lazy summer afternoon for us to eat at a point in the winter when we will need reminders that the summer climes will be upon us once again. (Make sure they are cooled right down before you put them in your containers for the freezer.)
IDEAS ON HOW TO USE THESE UP: use them in a tomato soup, in chili, your favourite pasta sauce, in a curry, or a stew, or mixed in with some pesto and slathered on sourdough bread and topped with cheese under the broiler for your next book club meeting; or plain, as-is (don't freeze them in this case, use them up right away) with a smattering of olive oil and balsamic and some parmesan cheese with minced prosciutto on top, under the broiler, topped with basil or oregano.
Bon appétit les ami(e)s!