What to Do With a Box of Romas? Slow Roast'em
I was at the farmers' market, but I felt like I was at Bingo night with a winning card or at a half-price shoe sale. SCORE!
It was Sunday morning, and Mister MA and I had rolled out of bed for our weekly ritual at Columbia Pike farm market. While he sipped on coffee and chatted with the farmers, I filled our bags with chard, celeriac, lamb chops, a loaf of bread and mustardy greens.
As I walked past the Toigo Orchards stand, I noticed something different from the usual set up of apples, pears and peaches. Perched behind the two guys working the stand was a huge box of Roma tomatoes, its inside lid functioning as a sign, which read: "10$ the box."
My heart began to race. Oh man, the things I could do with that many tomatoes, I thought. I motioned to Mister MA what I was doing, and he yelled, "What in the world are you going to do with them all?"
At that very moment, I imagined this is how my mother felt when she'd bring home one of her flea market finds and be confronted by my father, who often stubbed his toe over my mother's collection of artifacts.
I ignore Mister MA's concern and queue up instead, eager to get a closer look at this fantasy come true.
"How much does the box of tomatoes weigh?" I ask the Toigo guy.
"Eighteen pounds," he says, eyeballing the scale reading. "That's more than I thought."
I fork over my 10 bucks, and in exchange, am handed my tomato loot, quite pleased, like a kid about to ride a new bicycle.
I won't lie, the four-block walk home felt like a mile, and I wished I had learned the art of carrying heavy loads on my head when I had the chance in Africa.
A day goes by, and the box is still sitting on the dining room table, waiting for me and my big ideas. Canning was the first thought that came to mind, but this was one week that would not permit time-consuming projects. For ideas, I begin to pore through cookbooks and forage the food blogosphere, and sure enough, I come up with a plan:slow-roasted tomatoes.
Inspired by the slow-roasted tomatering endeavors in Orangette, the blog space of Seattle-based food writer Molly Wizenberg, I clear the counter and start slicing Romas.
The process couldn't be simpler: Oil the skins, place the tomato halves juicy side up on a baking sheet, squeezed together like sardines, sprinkle with salt and any other seasoning that you like. And that's it. The oven, set on a low 200 degrees, does the rest of the work.
Six hours later, the sun had turned in for the night, and my Roma halves had transformed into succulent little pouches of tomato pudding, intense in aroma (the whole house smelled like pepperoni pizza) and flavor, like a raisin or a glass of sun-saturated red Zinfandel.
We nibbled on a few with dinner to see how the tomatoes would pair up with salads and bread and sauces and things, and they were getting high marks. Mister MA asked what I might do with 30-some slow-roasted tomatoes, and it got me thinking about sauce and pizza toppings, sandwich fillers, pesto, omelet companions, rice toppers. The uses are endless and inspire creativity, like an artist's palette or a carpenter's belt.
The only problem: I still have half of an 18-pound box of tomatoes. What's next?
At least 20 ripe Roma tomatoes (Amount is approximate; given the time involved in roasting, it seems a waste to roast fewer than 2 trays' worth of tomato halves)
At least 2 tablespoons olive oil
At least 1 teaspoon coarse salt
Black pepper to taste
1-2 teaspoons dried oregano, mint, lavender, fennel seed , ground coriander, herbes de Provence, whatever savory topping floats your boat
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 tomatoes on a baking sheet (it's okay to have them snug), SKIN SIDE DOWN. Sprinkle salt and herbs and spices of your choice, using 1-2 teaspoons for an entire tray.
Place tray in oven and roast 4-6 hours, or until the tomatoes have shrunk by at least 1/3, maybe 1/2 their original size. They will look a little crinkly but should retain some juiciness.
Remove tray from oven and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container in the fridge; tomatoes will keep for at least a week.
By Kim ODonnel |
October 3, 2007; 11:23 AM ET
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