Around here, the season of autumn — that splendid time of year when the leaves blow around, the weather cools, and we all eat lots of roasted squash and homemade pie — is a bit of a myth. Here in Colorado, while the leaves do turn gorgeous colors and definitely blow around, the fall usually goes more like this: One day you’re sunbathing in shorts at your son’s football game and the next you’re digging through bins at the back of a closet searching for hats and snow boots.
It’s sometimes tough to get into the fall mood food-wise when it’s 80 degrees outside. Although I have roasted my share of veggies this fall (the best being acorn squash: simply slice in half, add a pinch of salt and a little butter, bake at 350 for an hour or so until slightly browned; eat with a spoon like it’s a tub of Ben & Jerry’s — delish), in an attempt to hold onto summer because I know a giant, summer-obliterating snowstorm is coming any day, I’ve also been slow-roasting tomatoes.
I know it’s November and the tomatoes aren’t necessarily at their peak, but it’s not too late to make oven-roasted tomatoes. These have been an absolute revelation for me. Slow roasting does something brilliant to tomatoes, amping up their sweetness while cooking out the moisture, transforming them into intensely flavored, slightly dry (but not leathery like prepackaged “sun” dried tomatoes) fruit. Even not-so-hot tomatoes turn into incredible roasted tomatoes. I’ve made these with tiny grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and full-sized Roma or plum tomatoes. All are great, but I think I like the tiny, candy-like dried grape tomatoes the best.
Once you’ve roasted them, store these tomatoes in a jar in the fridge. They’re not exactly “canned” for real, so they are perishable, although I’ve had a jar in there for two weeks now and they are fine (just ate about 10, mmmm). Roasted tomatoes are excellent on sandwiches, in pasta dishes, in salads, or on an appetizer platter. They also make great bruschetta. My son loves to eat them right out of the jar (so do I clearly). Here’s how to make them (it takes a while to roast them, but otherwise they are simple to make).
Organic tomatoes (either grape, cherry, plum, or Roma — I suggest buying a lot — maybe 5 lbs. or more — and making a big batch of these; they shrink up quite a bit while drying in the oven)
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh herbs and/or whole garlic cloves (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray or a thin layer of oil (or line with parchment paper). I don’t peel the tomatoes, but if you want to, it’s easiest if you blanch them first in boiling water, then transfer to an ice bath to stop the cooking. As soon as they are cool, you can peel them. If you’re using larger tomatoes (anything bigger than the tiny grape ones), I suggest cutting either in half (for cherry tomatoes) or quarters (for plum or Roma). Toss tomatoes with olive oil and salt. Place skin-side down on baking sheet, and if you’re using fresh herbs or garlic, you can put those on there, too. (I usually put a couple cloves of garlic and maybe a sprig or two of basil if I have it.)
Roast in the oven for at least three and probably more like four-plus hours, depending on the size of the tomatoes. You can start testing them after about 2 1/2 hours, but in my experience, they hit their peak of roasted and dehydrated deliciousness after four hours. Let cool and store in a jar with the garlic, herbs, and any oil that was left on the pan. Enjoy.