Tomatoes before oven treatment:
After oven treatment:
I never thought I would admit this, but the words "shriveled" and "shrunken" appeal to me. In a tomato kind of way. When a sweet, ripe, meaty tomato takes some serious heat in an oven and comes away greatly reduced. With its essence concentrated in the shrunken flesh, and all the moisture evaporated, the whithered tomato becomes even more of itself. It's an oxymoron.
Decent tomatoes are starting to appear in markets and grocery stores and I am ready with my arsenal of tools: a roasting pan, fresh garlic, olive oil and thyme from the garden. I start with a fragrant Roma tomato and cut it into eighths. It then gets a bath in a glug of good, fruity olive oil, as well as a toss with chopped garlic, sprigs of thyme and salt and pepper to taste. It's already tasting good. Tomatoes like a hot oven, so don't be shy to crank yours to 425 F. Watch those babies darken and shrink. Give them a toss every 15 minutes or so to let the caramelization occur evenly and to prevent sticking. I say 45 minutes or so in the oven should render your tomatoes tender and soft, ready for the next stage in their lives.
Those of you who are fussy about tomato skins have a couple of options. You could peel the tomatoes before roasting by quickly immersing them in boiling water and then removing the skin. I do this though: I let them roast and cool and then quickly and easily pick off the pieces of shrivelled skin with my fingers.
You are now the proud owner of a pan of intensely aromatic roasted tomatoes. You may, of course, devour them on the spot. Standing at the oven. But do keep some for a magnificent pasta sauce. You can gently press them with a potato masher to futher soften the flesh and pair them with your favourite robust pasta, perhaps penne or fusili. Throw in some grated parmesan cheese, loosen with a bit of the pasta cooking water and call it dinner. I used roasted tomatoes as part of a melange of fillings for calzone last night, adding body and flavour to the mozzarella cheese, sauteed mushrooms, olives and roasted peppers they were accompanying. Grilled chicken breasts enjoy being slathered with a scattering of roasted tomatoes overtop as does a halibut steak. Omelettes filled with your withered wonders and little cubes of fresh mozzarella are a fine idea too. In a quiche, on a pizza, beside some garlicy shrimp, strewn over grilled sausages . . . . . . you get the idea.
The next time you see a nice looking tomato, treat it to some time in the oven.
More inspiration for putting tomatoes to good use: