Slow-Roasted Summer Tomatoes

We’re winning the Battle of the Bunny and enjoying an abundance of tomatoes—we being my sister and the folks at the farmers’ market. I am limping along as more of the turtle in the race with sporadic red developments on those few late-planted tomatoes in my garden that I’ve managed to keep going—but they are producing something at least, and beating the bunny. Lately (pooling farmers’ market and various garden tomatoes), I’ve made chopped Caprese salad, ate sliced tomatoes on their own, added them to lettuce salads, topped sandwiches, and sautéed cherry tomatoes for use in scrambled eggs and pasta. I love this time of year (BLT season…need to make some of those yet), but it can’t last forever. It’s also sometimes hard to use all those glorious red fruits before they go south. So what to do with all the wonderful tomatoes? Preserve the flavor of summer by slow-roasting some with this recipe that appeared in Real Food.

When chef Seth Bixby Daugherty cooked at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C., in the late 1980s, he learned this recipe for preserving those summer jewels. Don’t worry, you don’t have to learn hot-water canning; you simply roast the tomatoes, then freeze them in sturdy plastic bags. It’s the best way he knows of to get the flavor of summer all year long. Now that the days are a bit cooler, you can handle firing up the oven for roasting. You can even put them in the oven before you go to bed and they are done by morning.

The uses for these roasted tomatoes are nearly endless. They make a great side dish alongside roasted meats, a perfect pizza or bruschetta topping, can be cut up for a quick pasta sauce, or added to lasagna. If you want individual plated appetizers, consider garnishing a roasted tomato half with a bit of fresh mozzarella and a basil leaf and drizzling the composition with olive oil, good balsamic vinegar, or a simple vinaigrette.

Slow-Roasted Summer Tomatoes

12 tomatoes
20 cloves garlic
5 large thyme sprigs
¼ c. extra virgin olive oil

Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil.

Fill a large bowl or your sink basin with ice water.

Using a paring knife, core the tomatoes and cut a small X on the bottom of each tomato.

Place the tomatoes in the boiling water, wait for 2 minutes until the skin starts to come off, then place the tomatoes into ice water to cool. Once the tomatoes are cool, peel off the skin and set aside.

Next, cut the tomatoes in half at the equator of the tomato. Remove all the pulp and seeds and place in a bowl. (This can be used for tomato sauce or strained through a coffee filter to make tomato “water,” a thin soup that’s served in restaurants.)

Spread the olive oil on a large cookie tray and place the tomatoes flat-side down on the tray. Sprinkle with the fresh thyme and crushed garlic and season with salt and pepper.

Roast in an oven at 180 to 200°F for 10 to 12 hours (put them in the oven before you go to bed and they are done in the morning), or 7 to 8 hours if you have a convection oven. The tomatoes are done when they are dense, like fresh apricots.

Allow the tomatoes to cool. Slip them into sturdy zipper-top freezer bags, press out the extra air, and freeze. (Save the oil from the pan to use in salad dressings.)

Nutrition info per serving (1 medium tomato): CALORIES 50 (22 from fat); FAT 3g (sat. 0g); CHOL 0mg; SODIUM 7mg; CARB 7g; FIBER 1g; PROTEIN 1g

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Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.