Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Roasting tomatoes

What's so great about tomatoes, anyway? They have none of the crispness of cucumbers, none of the earthiness of parsley. They lack the suavity of zucchini or eggplant. They're not as sweet as corn or carrots, nor as bright as broccoli. And it's not like they have a patent on being round and red: look at apples! Why are we so entranced, bewitched by these seedy, pulp-filled sauce bombs?

Alright. I admit that's a dumb question. We are a household enraptured by tomatoes. Fresh, canned, sauced, or dried; made into salsa or ketchup or pesto, we are under their spell.

Strangely, though, it had been awhile since tomatoes had headlined a meal at our house. Too absorbed with deliberate potato consumption, we'd overlooked our vivacious, ruby-red jars of tomatoes for the past few months. What on earth came over us?

All it took was the thought of homemade pizza, and a feature in April's Bon Appetit, to drag us out of our irreverie.
I'd never roasted tomatoes before. After last night, I may roast them every day.

It's easy: preheat to 375 degrees, cut the little suckers in half (lengthwise), lay them cut-side up on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with olive oil, oregano, and salt, slide them in and walk away for an hour. Here's the recipe, as it appeared in Bon Appetit.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

2 pounds plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
salt, for sprinkling
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread tomatoes, cut-side-up, on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle with salt, oregano, and 2 tbsp of the olive oil. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, until lightly browned around the edges. Puree tomatoes in a food processor. Set aside. Meanwhile, saute garlic in the remaining olive oil until lightly browned. Add the processed tomatoes and the tomato paste, and cook, stirring, until mixture is reduced to an acceptable pizza sauce consistency. I let mine simmer for about ten minutes. This recipe yields enough for at least two 12-inch pies; it would also be stellar on pasta.


Stephanie said...

Those look so good! When I was a kid I would have turned my nose up at those, but I'm so glad I know better now.

Kristina said...

It's funny how our tastes change over time, isn't it? I spent my entire life avoiding red onions, until last year when I finally tried them thinly sliced, in a salad with walnut-raspberry dressing. Now I eat them all the time!

ChristyACB said...

Bravo! Bravo!

Now that is what I call proper tomato-y prose!

Melissa said...

We are tomato addicts, as well. I ate them like apples when I was pregnant with my first (as in, I took bites out of the side and ate the whole thing that way, bushel by bushel.) My son's favorite food last summer (at 14 months) was tomato with fresh basil and mozzarella, with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Yum. I cannot wait to get mine in the ground-- thanks for the recipes.

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you exactly why tomatoes are so amazing - their high level of umami!

"What exactly is umami?

Taking its name from Japanese, umami is a pleasant savoury taste imparted by glutamate, a type of amino acid, and ribonucleotides, including inosinate and guanylate, which occur naturally in many foods including meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products."

"Of the many plant foods that provide umami in western tradition, the tomato is foremost. Its attractive, full, rounded 'meaty' flavour comes from its heavy load of glutamates, and this flavour is reinforced by its unique crimson colour, the colour of blood which is the very essence of animal life. The umami theme remains constant, though the way it is expressed varies from culture to culture. Beginning in Asia with fermented soybeans, migrating through England with walnuts and mushrooms and emerging triumphant with tomatoes in American ketchup, evidence of a deep-rooted worldwide inclination to exploit glutamate-rich foods for savoury seasonings and condiments is clear."

Kristina said...

Christy-- Thanks! A curtsy for your kudos.

Melissa-- your son has good taste! I'd say you have yourself a little foodie-in-training. :)

Madsilence-- I had no idea tomatoes were high in umami. Asparagus, yes, mushrooms, yes, but not tomatoes. Good to know!

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