Caramelized, sweet, meaty and robust...this is what you get when you slow-roast the season’s finest tomatoes. Roasting is a wonderful way to concentrate the natural sweetness and distinct flavors of tomatoes, or any produce for that matter. Many gourmet cooks reserve the simple technique for root vegetables, but roasting really flatters the delicate, subtle character of summer’s bounty.
My instructions for slow-roasted tomatoes would work for virtually any kind of tomato: beefsteak, plum, cherry and heirlooms of any sort. The Bay Area farmers’ markets have tables piled high with bright, juicy heirlooms, so I could hardly resist using them for my first attempt at slow-roasting. Heirlooms have definitely become increasingly popular, one can now even find them at many grocery stores and specialty markets. But the best are picked hours before they are sold---juicy, flavorful and utterly wonderful. There are countless varieties of heirlooms, each with a unique shape, size, color and taste.
A note about heirlooms:
Heirlooms may demand a premium price, but in my opinion, every penny is worth it, especially if it means I am supporting local agriculture. Heirloom tomatoes are open-pollinated plants, which means they have been naturally selected in the wild and are grown directly from the seed of a previous plant. Many varieties have been around for more than 50 years, and are connected to interesting folklore and family traditions. Heirloom tomatoes take longer to ripen and often have lower yields than hybrid, commercial varieties. They rely on the sun to develop a bold flavor, tender skin and juiciness--characteristics that are sometimes compromised in commercial tomatoes, which are bred for longer transportation and storage. It is up to our local farmers and to us (the consumers) to support and preserve delicious heirloom varieties.
Try slow-roasting your next batch of summer tomatoes. The outcome is very versatile and keeps well, but from my experience, you’ll finish them off in no time. These tomatoes add so much punch that you don’t need much else to make a delicious meal. My favorites so far have been on a simple Greek pizza, on toasted bread with a poached egg, and on sandwiches of any sort.
2 lbs tomatoes, halved (or enough to spread evenly on a baking sheet)
A drizzle of olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 250°F. Cover a large baking sheet with foil. Arrange tomatoes on prepared baking sheet cut side up. Drizzle with a modest amount of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 4-8 hours (depending on size of tomatoes) or until wrinkled, caramelized and rich in color. Drizzle with more olive oil and season to taste. Store in an airtight container for several weeks.