Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes: Preserving Summer's Bounty

three beefsteak tomatoes in sunlight

It's the end of July and my tomato plants are bursting with more fruit than I know what to do with. Last week I made panzanella, that hearty bread and tomato salad so popular with the Florentines; the week before that I served caprese sandwiches for dinner. Light, fresh and flavorful. And yet I've barely put a dent in the number of ruby-red globes sitting on my counter.

Time to start roasting.

I love oven-roasted tomatoes and use them religiously to perk up sandwiches, hamburgers, even salads. When you roast tomatoes, the flavors concentrate bringing forth a sweetened taste and pleasant texture that brightens any dish. But unlike most Italians who usually use smaller, roma tomatoes, I tend to roast beefsteak-style tomatoes as they add a larger-than-life and appetizing presence to the dishes they grace.

one beefsteak tomato in sunlight

I have a few roasting rules, however. First, make sure the slices are thick - about a third of an inch - otherwise they'll shrink to nothing during the cooking process, or worse, burn. Second, season lightly to enhance rather than mask the flavor.  (I use a mixture of sea salt, pepper and sugar but you can come up with your own herb combination.) And finally, remember patience - slow and low is the way to go. I roast mine on a cookie sheet at 250F degrees for about three hours. Once cooled, transfer the tomatoes into a sealed container where they will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.

several slices of tomatoes on cutting board
Slice tomatoes at least a third of an inch thick.

tomato slices on baking sheet
Lay slices single layer on baking sheet and brush lightly with extra virgin olive oil.

Spoon over tomato slices
Lightly season each tomato slice with sea salt, pepper, sugar rub (equal parts).

cookie sheet with tomato slices
Roast at 250F for approximately 3 hours.

tomatoes after they've been roasted in the oven
Sweet and delicious, roasted tomatoes will dress up nearly any dish.

Next week: what to do with your delicious oven-roasted tomatoes. 

Buon appetito!

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