Tuesday, April 20, 2010

You say tomato...I say YUM!

They always say (whoever "they" are) that you are either one or the other...

An Elvis person or a Beatles person
A Target person or a Walmart person
A Pepsi person or a Coke person
A tomato person or not a tomato person?

So that last one is a stretch, but if I definitely have had a few tomato debates in my day. You either love em' or hate em'. I, myself, am a tomato lover. You can give them to me raw, as a sauce, fried, or sauteed and I'll devour them. A few years ago I learned how to oven roast tomatoes and it made me look at them in a whole new way. Roasting a tomato brings out a rich, sweet flavor that is almost candy-like. This is evidenced by the fact that once they come out of the oven I eat half of them straight off the pan. Last weekend I had a hankering for some roasted tomatoes, so I took a trip to the farmer's market and picked up three pounds of em' - 1 pound of beefsteaks, 1 pound of romas, and 1 of grape. Here is a little picture tutorial on how I do it...

1. Cut your tomatoes. Romas can be cut in half, bigger rounder tomatoes cut into quarters, and grape/cherry tomatoes can be left whole. Take a paring knife and cut out the part where the stem attaches. Finally, over the sink or a large bowl, get your fingers into the tomato and scoop out the seeds.

2. Chop some garlic - I used 6 cloves. Like my action shot?

3. Throw the tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the minced garlic and some salt & pepper. Get your hands in there and toss them all around to coat.

4. Bake at 300 degrees for at least 1 1/2 hours. You can go up to 2 1/2 hours, but make sure to monitor so they don't burn. You may want to turn the temp down to 275 for this as well.
Less cooking time = a more moist and mild tomato
More cooking time = a more dehydrated tomato, but the flavor is much more concentrated and "tomatoey". This is my favorite way to go.

Here they are all finished. Nice and wrinkly.

There are countless ways that you can use these little guys. Here are a three that I like:

1. After roasting, place the tomatoes in a bowl and drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar. If you're using grape tomatoes, leave them whole. Any others you'll need to chop up a little. Toss in some salt & pepper, and some fresh chopped basil. If you want to get really crazy (and have some crazy breath), add some more chopped garlic. Take a crusty loaf of bread, slice at least an inch thick, toast, and smear some goat cheese on each slice. Top with the tomato mixture.

2. Instead of roasting on a sheet pan, try roasting some grape tomatoes in a large, oven-safe frying pan minus the foil. (My Calphalon pans are oven safe up to 450 degrees. Check on your pans first before trying this!) Once they are done, remove the tomatoes from the pan, leaving the juices. On top of the stove on medium heat, add about 1/4 cup of chicken stock to the pan, scraping the tomato juices and bits off the bottom of the pan as you stir. (Make sure to use an oven mit on the hot handle!) Take a whole bag of fresh spinach, remove the stems, and throw the spinach in the same pan. Cook the spinach on medium-high heat with some minced garlic and olive oil until it is totally wilted down and all of the liquid has cooked off. At the end, add the tomatoes back in. Serve as a side dish with beef, poultry, or fish. You could also add this mixture to any basic quiche recipe.

3. Throw all of your roasted tomatoes into your food processor. Add some chopped garlic, salt/pepper, any fresh herbs that you like - rosemary, thyme, and basil are good. Blend until the tomatoes are smooth and look like tomato sauce. And that's exactly what it is - tomato sauce! Serve over pasta, OR put some of the tomato sauce in a pan, add some chicken stock and heavy cream to make a creamy tomato soup. YUM!

By the way...Beatles, Target, and Coke!

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