Got tomatoes? Finally they are ready to harvest faster than we can eat them at our house.
It has been three years here since we've had a good crop, so even though most of my tomatoes are “little boys,” they are most appreciated. We've been admiring them arranged in a big bowl on the counter, but it is time to put them to use.
Roma, Yellow Pear and some Big Boys that are really not so big comprise the bulk of our 2012 crop. We use all of them in salads, but to make the most of their amazing fresh vine-ripened flavor, I am roasting them at least once a week.
These roasted jewels are a blessing to a variety of dishes: Roasted Cream of Tomato Soup, the Best Tomato Sauce, grilled cheese or chicken sandwiches, pizza sauce and pasta salads. You can orchestrate a mighty bruschetta topping with roasted tomatoes, a splash of balsamic vinegar, a drizzle of olive oil and, of course, a touch of garlic.
You might not have thought about roasting the yellow tomatoes, but they are quite good this way and have the bonus of being less acidic. How about a roasted yellow tomato and yellow pepper soup? This combination is amazing especially if you add a few garlic chives and a little cream at the end.
Roast a combination of zucchini, tomatoes and onions. Slice each into bite-size pieces, toss in a bit of olive oil, season and spread on a prepared baking sheet. (Cover the sheet with parchment, nonstick foil or a silicone baking mat for cleanup ease.) Place this combination on an upper rack in an oven heated to 400 degrees. Roast about 20 minutes until onions begin to caramelize.
Larger slices of tomato roast best spread apart on the baking sheet.
Have at least a half-inch of space between them for better circulation. If roasting Roma tomatoes, it is easy to cut them in half and squeeze out the sparse mushy seeded area to roast more efficiently. I do the same when roasting larger slices — just squeeze a bit or spoon out some of the seeded area, making sure to leave the meaty flavorful flesh.
Roma tomatoes are considered one of the best varieties for making sauce, but others work well when their flavors are concentrated during the roasting process.
Tiny grape or pear tomatoes should be cut in half for roasting. Discard any with blemishes or discoloration. Though a little tedious, the reward in flavor is worth it. These little ones roast best when crowded onto the baking sheet. Turn them cut-side up as this allows the moisture to escape efficiently. A low, slow-roasting on an upper rack works nicely. Set oven at 175 to 200 degrees and roast for an hour or more.
Don't over roast. Slight caramelization around the edges is desirable, but avoid blackened ones.
The best concentration of natural sugars and flavor happens with just a bit of browning as the juices in the tomato begin to caramelize. Achieve this, and you will have a hard time resisting popping them all into your mouth as soon as they cool a bit.
Seasoning tomatoes for roasting is a matter of preference. I love stripping fresh thyme leaves from stems and sprinkling them over the tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and a little kosher salt.
You can put them all in a bowl to distribute the herbs, oil and salt evenly before arranging the sliced tomatoes on the baking sheet. Other herbs work as well, or purchased Italian seasoning.
Less is more as you want to enhance the intense tomato flavor rather than disguise it.
You can always incorporate fresh herbs at the finish of most dishes. If you don't have a full baking sheet of tomatoes, it is still worthwhile to supplement some canned tomatoes with the fresh ones. You'll be rewarded with enhanced flavor in whatever capacity you plan to use the tomatoes.
This cool fall air has peaked, and we are enjoying some yummy homemade soup. Roasted Tomato Basil Soup is on my food radar tonight.
Sherrel's Roasted Tomato Sauce
Makes 1 quart of Tomato Sauce or 5 cups of creamy tomato soup.
4 cups sliced tomatoes, cut 1/4-inch thick or in half (Roma, grape or other combination)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 stalks celery, sliced into 1/4-inch segments
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 (14.5 ounces) can stewed tomatoes (Italian Style if possible.)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup cream or half and half
• Prepare tomatoes for roasting slicing 1/4-inch thick or cut in half for smaller tomatoes. Place on silicone mat or parchment covered baking sheet.
• Roast at 200-degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until tomatoes begin to caramelize. (This will take only about 30 to 40 minutes in convection oven.)
• Meanwhile in a 2 1/2- to 3-quart sauce pan, saute celery, onion garlic and Italian seasoning in olive oil until celery softens and onion is wilted and begins to caramelize. Deglaze with stewed tomatoes crushing large pieces with fingers as it is added to the sauteed mixture.
• Reduce heat, add oven roasted tomatoes and vinegar. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Sauce will be ready. Finish with chopped fresh basil.
• For soup: Add broth and cream or half and half. Pour mixture into blender container and pulse to blend adding basil leaves until finely chopped. Return to pan and heat until piping hot and serve. Garnish with an additional basil leaf and serve.
This soup is great with grilled cheese sandwich. The sauce can be frozen to use later or turn into soup at a later time.