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Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2007 01:01 am

Bargain roasting

Things to do with late-season tomatoes

art4488
Untitled Document I recently hit the produce jackpot at my local farmers’ market. So what if I didn’t know what I’d do with an 18-pound box of tomatoes? I had just sleuthed a $10 bargain. It was like hanging out at the markdown rack at TJ Maxx, breathless over a two-piece bathing suit I’d never be caught dead in but must buy because it’s only two bucks. Mother Nature is having her own kind of end-of-season sale at the moment, with tomatoes leading the charge because they’re usually the last summer crop to hang on until the first frost. Pleased with my purchase, I admired my newly acquired juicy jewels, but reality quickly set in: I had 18 pounds of Roma tomatoes in my possession and no time to play with them in the coming week. A full calendar meant no opportunity for gurgling pots of pasta sauce, jars of salsa, or a canning extravaganza. The only thing that made sense, given my time constraints, was to slow-roast ’em. The oblong Roma (a.k.a. plum tomato) has a higher meat-to-juice ratio than, say, the average beefsteak tomato that’s so good in a sandwich, which means that it’s a perfect candidate for an oven-dried experience. More tomato pulp means less water to evaporate, and after a long stint in a warm (not hot) oven that translates into Яber-intense multilayered flavor. Best of all, slow-roasted tomatoes take little brainpower; it’s hard to screw them up. Oil, salt, and season; line ’em up on a baking sheet; stick ’em in the oven; and carry on with the rest of your life for the next four hours. You won’t believe the tomatoey transformation that takes place while you’re napping or involved in some other form of domestic bliss; those Romas do a Shrinky-Dink thing that deepens their color and concentrates their tomatoness. The flavor is sweet yet sorta smoky, but the experience, like a good wine, keeps going as the herb/spice topping kicks in. For those worried about what to do with 30-some slow-roasted tomatoes, these little jewels can be enjoyed solo, in between sandwiches, thrown into an omelet, or purОed with a little stock for a whole new pasta-sauce experience.
Culinary questions? Contact Kim O’Donnel at
kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes
30 ripe Roma tomatoes — about two    baking sheets’ worth At least 2 tablespoons olive oil (herb-    flavored oil might be interesting) At least 1 teaspoon coarse salt Black pepper to taste Seasoning options: 1 to 2 teaspoons dried    oregano, mint, lavender, fennel seed,    summer savory, ground coriander,   orange or lemon zest, herbes de Provence

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise. Pour oil into a small bowl and, with a pastry or silicone brush, apply oil to the skin side of the tomatoes. Line up the tomatoes snugly on a baking sheet, oiled-skin side down. Measure out salt and seasonings and place in separate bowls, then, with your fingers, sprinkle each over the tops, ensuring even distribution. Place the tray in the oven and roast until the tomatoes have shrunk by at least one-third or maybe half of their original size, four to six hours. They will look a little crinkly but should retain some juiciness. Remove the tray from oven and allow the tomatoes to cool. Store tomatoes in an airtight container in the fridge; they will keep for at least a week.
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