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8.04.2005

Better living through slow-roasting

The word “happiness” has many definitions, but I’m quite convinced that if you looked it up in one of those nifty visual dictionaries, what you’d see is a pan of slow-roasted tomatoes. I only exaggerate slightly.


I first tasted these one summer in Oklahoma, when a glut of tomatoes from my parents’ garden sent us running for the cookbook shelf. Searching every index, poring over flashy photographs, and scanning recipes from aspic to ziti, we stumbled upon Molly O’Neill’s A Well-Seasoned Appetite, a sturdy, sensuous book that’s a bit heavy on the prose, a bit thin on the photos, but just right when it comes to tomatoes. For ours, still sun-warm and very sweet, we wanted something simple—no terrines or towers. So, loosely following O'Neill's guidance, we sent sheet pans full of halved tomatoes into a low oven, and six hours later, we retrieved them to find their edges crinkled like thick fabric and their juices concentrated and syrupy. They were fleshy, with veins that rose to the surface under the heat, and when we bit into them, they shot thick vermilion juice onto the tabletop.


They may take six hours to reach fruition, but straight from the oven, a slow-roasted tomato is instant gratification. It’s almost impossible to keep stray fingers out of them; they’re like rubies in fruit form. And though they are delicious plain, their sweet acidity also plays remarkably well with other flavors, especially those dishes at the rich, robust end of the spectrum: a creamy cheese soufflé, maybe, or a plate of trofie al pesto. Paired with fresh chèvre, peppery arugula, and pesto, they make for a luscious, drippy sandwich, and fanned over the top of a burger, they’re ketchup for the adult set. Even the tried-and-tired Caprese salad becomes an entirely new thing with slow-roasted tomatoes in place of raw. Brandon has his sights set on trying them in a pizza sauce, but in the meantime, I love to slice a handful of them into a bowl with slivered basil, capers, sea salt, and splashes of balsamic and olive oil: an improvised sauce for whatever pasta happens to land in the boiling pot. And on nights when the stove is too much to consider, few things make for a happier picnic—on the floor or in the grass—than a hunk of crusty bread, a fat wedge of bleu d’Auvergne, and slow-roasted tomatoes.

With a little foresight, you can arrange to have them always in your fridge, ready and waiting. I’ve never been one to believe, anyway, that happiness can’t be planned.



Slow-Roasted Tomatoes with Sea Salt and Ground Coriander

I’ve played enough with O’Neill’s formula that I think it’s now safe to claim it as my own—and anyway, it’s loose enough to hardly be called a recipe at all. I’ve tried sprinkling various herbs and spices onto the tomatoes; I’ve baked them for four hours sometimes and six hours others*; I’ve roasted 10 one day and 28 the next. I’ve even carried my experimentation into winter—seasonal blasphemy, I know—and with almost summery results. Unlike their more delicate cousins, decent Roma tomatoes can be found almost year-round, and after a few hours in the oven, they make a fine rebuttal to a cold January night. In fact, for this preparation, I now choose almost exclusively Romas, even in the summertime. Dusted with a little salt and ground coriander—the (now not-so-)secret weapon that makes this recipe a keeper—they take on a full, almost winey flavor, and they hold their shape beautifully. Don’t hesitate to roast a lot at a time; they keep well in the fridge, sealed up tight, for several days.


Ripe tomatoes, preferably Roma
Olive oil
Sea salt
Ground coriander

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wash the tomatoes, cut off the stem end, and halve them lengthwise. Pour a bit of olive oil into a small bowl, dip a pastry brush into it, and brush the tomato halves lightly with oil. Place them, skin side down, on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle them with sea salt and ground coriander—about a pinch of each for every four to six tomato halves.

Bake the tomatoes until they shrink to about 1/3 of their original size but are still soft and juicy, 4 to 6 hours. [I usually let mine go for the maximum time.] Remove the baking sheet from the oven, and allow the tomatoes to cool to room temperature. Place them in an airtight container, and store them in the refrigerator.


*If the thought of leaving the oven on for 4-6 hours in the summertime makes you overheat on the spot, consider starting a batch first thing in the morning. By the time the day’s heat kicks into full throttle, they’ll be finished, and so will your oven.

36 Comments:

Anonymous melissa said...

Beautifully written - I don't think I've ever seen tomatoes described with such poetry! I was recently admiring a similar recipe in the Patricia Wells' Provence Cookbook; I think I definitely need to get with the program and make it. Btw, I would love to meet you and I've just sent you an email outlining my kind of complicated schedule, so let me know if anything looks like it will work!

10:21 PM, August 04, 2005  
Blogger Michèle said...

Molly,
You are my superhero, saving me in the nick of time. I've been testing a recipe for Roasted Tomato Bisque for an upcoming visit from a dear friend from Canada.. The roasting part instructed a high heat for a mere 30 minutes. They turned into a juicy, soggy mess, and they didnt taste roasted at all. I'm looking forward to roasting them the Molly way..

12:05 AM, August 05, 2005  
Anonymous Shira said...

Molly, they sound great. I've been wanting to make something like this for a while, but my Centigrade-calibrated oven doesn't go anywhere near that low. Any ideas?

1:31 AM, August 05, 2005  
Blogger hera said...

great photos

2:13 AM, August 05, 2005  
Blogger Pille said...

Ah, Molly. First it was Nicky&Oliver over at delicious:days that made me drool over slow-roasted tomatoes (see http://www.deliciousdays.com/archives/2005/07/24/oven-dried-tomatoes-really-a-no-brainer), then you.
I so will have to roast my own tomatoes now.. Addition of ground coriander sounds like a tasty touch!

4:36 AM, August 05, 2005  
Blogger amylou said...

I knew it! You eat tomatoes in the winter too!

I once made a very good warm salad of slow-roasted tomatoes, kalamata olives, boiled new potatoes, arugula/rocket/roquette/rucola, olive oil, and balsamic.

6:29 AM, August 05, 2005  
Blogger tara said...

Ever since they did oven-dried tomatoes over at Delicious Days, I've been obsessed with these tasty little treats. I've made Martha's heirloom tomato tart (adding chevre and featuring her lovely pâte brisée), and now I have another recipe! A coworker brought in a lovely little basket of tiny homegrown cherry tomatoes this morning - I wonder if your method would work with roasting them whole? Do you think they would be too watery?

7:31 AM, August 05, 2005  
Anonymous mary g said...

I am dying to try these. And in answer to Shira, it might work to turn the oven up quite hot to preheat it and then turn it off when you put the tomatoes in. I have a recipe for roasted jalapenos that suggested this. I turned it up as high as it would go (500 degrees on my oven) and then put them in after about 5 min of preheating. The recipe suggested that if they didn't seem done enough after 3 hours, you could repeat the heating and turning off for another cycle.
This worked just fine.

7:44 AM, August 05, 2005  
Blogger amylou said...

Shira, I made slow-roasted tomatoes in my centigrade oven last year and they worked out fne. I can't remember the exact temperature but it must have been around 100 or a bit lower. I do remember that I only roasted them for three or four hours, though, so maybe that's the trick.

8:37 AM, August 05, 2005  
Blogger Frugal Foodlover said...

Molly, looks great, thanks for this. I have to ask one question however: how do they freeze? I know I can use this to improve winter tomatos, but can I preserve the glories of summer this way as well?

10:32 AM, August 05, 2005  
Blogger Carol said...

Mmmm! Never thought to use coriander...will have to try your secret ingredient. My friend's recipe (from Cafe Beaujolais, I think) uses Roma tomatoes cut in half across the equator, with garlic and basil. After four hours in the oven, atop some bread and cheese...ahh..

10:48 AM, August 05, 2005  
Blogger megwoo said...

Beautiful Molly! I love slow roasted tomatoes as well. I first heard about them via the Herb Farm Cookbook. My favorite seasoning so far has been thyme, but coriander sounds incredible!

3:38 PM, August 05, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Thank you, Melissa! I would highly encourage anyone who's even slightly inclined to jump on the roasted-tomato bandwagon, and I'm sure Patricia Wells would too. Looking forward to all sorts of delicious chatter--tomato-related or not--over a drink next week!

Michele, I'm so glad to have been of help! Those high-heat, lightning-fast roasted tomatoes sound very, very sad. Please do keep us posted on how your bisque responds to a new tomato preparation. Recipe to come, over at Oswego Tea?

Shira, don't let that oven stand in your way. It sounds as though mary g and amylou, above, have some good suggestions...

Hera, thank you!

Pille, the ground coriander was a great discovery for me, and for this recipe, if I do say so myself! I first thought to use it after eating some "tomates confites a la coriandre" somewhere in Paris, so I really shouldn't take all the credit...

Amy, you've caught me! So, here's an idea: next winter, let's get together in a small, confined space somewhere, with our boyfriends clad only in briefs, and lots of roasted tomatoes, homemade sourdough, and oatmeal cookies. Please? In the meantime, that salad of yours sounds wonderful. And thank you for helping Shira with her oven question.

Tara, that tart looks outstanding! Thanks for calling it to my attention. As for your little homegrown lovelies, hmm. I just read over the recipe at delicious:days, and it looks as though Nicky is using little cherry/cocktail tomatoes, albeit halved. I don't see why you couldn't roast yours whole, though, following either of our methods (which are quite similar, anyway). I imagine that their skins will split and they'll shrivel a bit, but I wouldn't think they'd be too juicy at all. Let me know how it turns out!

Mary g, thanks so much for jumping in to help Shira with her oven conundrum. Much appreciated!

Knicke, I have frozen these many a time, and they freeze quite nicely. Their texture and vibrance does change, however: their color dulls a bit, and the flesh becomes more icy and watery, less meaty. They were perfect, however, for that pasta sauce preparation I mentioned above, or anything that didn't require them to stand alone. Great for sauces. If you do choose to freeze them, space them evenly on a baking sheet, and freeze them that way until they're hard. Then transfer them to a heavy freezer bag. That way, they'll freeze as individual tomato halves rather than as a solid clump, and you can pull out and thaw as many or as few as you want.

Carol, your friend's method sounds wonderful! How could you go wrong with tomatoes, garlic, and basil? I mean, really. Tomatoes can be surprisingly cameleon-like; they change character and cuisine so easily, according to the spices and herbs you use. I do love my coriander, but I might have to stray every now and then...

And Megan, I love roasted tomatoes with thyme too. I have a recipe--which may one day appear here--for a slow-roasted tomato tart that uses thyme. Sooo wonderful.

4:19 PM, August 05, 2005  
Anonymous josephine said...

I love, love, love slow roasted tomatoes. Well, slow roasted anything, really -- but tomatoes are so deliciously juicy and lush and pretty and wonderful when they've been roasted with sea salt, a little garlic, perhaps some olive oil... yum.

2:10 AM, August 06, 2005  
Blogger amylou said...

Molly, that is a superb idea. And what's even better, if Erik and Brandon agree to such an insane double date, we'll know for sure that they are our soulmates.

Your place or mine?

2:16 AM, August 06, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Josephine, you said it beautifully. I couldn't agree more. Ahh.

Amy, let's see. Hmmm. We could meet halfway...say, at your parents'! How convenient, no? We could recreate your old "cozy corner" behind the vanity and get your mom to bake the oatmeal cookies. What do you think? [Wow, this only gets worse, doesn't it?]

7:32 PM, August 06, 2005  
Blogger farmgirl said...

Hi Molly,
Great post. Your writing is always so entertaining and informative. Love the photos, too. Now if only my tomatoes in the garden would follow the orders I keep barking (pleading?) at them: "Turn red! Turn red! TURN RED!" : )

12:21 PM, August 07, 2005  
Blogger Tana Butler said...

I love your blog: I just found it. Funnily enough, I had just added my own recipe for slow-roasted tomatoes to my blog about small farms: on July 7. I see that you use halves -- I've cooked mine for less time with smaller pieces. I'm willing to give your way a try, but I think you're insanely optimistic to think people can make them last. Heh.

Cheers!

9:23 PM, August 08, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Thank you, farmgirl! Now, get back to chanting that tomato mantra! Slow-roasted tomatoes are in your near future...

And Tana, thanks so much for popping in and leaving a comment. I seem to remember seeing you around eGullet--could that be right? I go by cheeseandchocolate over there, although I don't get much time these days to prowl the forums. Grr. At any rate, I'm so glad to know about your blog. Three cheers for small farms!

11:01 AM, August 09, 2005  
Anonymous keiko said...

Molly - I remember you left a comment about this tomatoes when I posted mine ;) They look gorgeous!

6:45 PM, August 09, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Thank you, keiko! Now I need to try them in a sausage sandwich like the one you recently wrote about...

9:23 AM, August 10, 2005  
Anonymous becca said...

marvelous recipe ...

7:31 PM, August 11, 2005  
Blogger The Whippy Curly Tails said...

Your tomatoes are on the way to having a life of their own. I have forwarded so many friends on to your site. They are mesmerized by the chocolate covered orange and it takes them some time to get to the tomatoes but then, of course you have them hooked! We will all stay tuned...

6:46 PM, August 12, 2005  
Anonymous grayblog said...

I am trying these at 150 degrees for 10 hours tonight. I'll let you know how they turn out tomorrow.

8:26 PM, August 12, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Becca, thank you.

And Joce, you have no idea how happy that makes me. Thank you--and your friends!

And grayblog, I eagerly await an update...

5:11 PM, August 13, 2005  
Blogger Allan said...

Oh.

Nice recipe. It's a keeper.

11:24 AM, August 20, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Thanks, Allan! I think so too.

5:12 PM, August 20, 2005  
Blogger Mags said...

That's it. I'm eating dinner at your house.

12:54 PM, August 29, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Sure thing, Mags--just give me at least six hours' notice, so I can get the tomatoes roasting...

2:10 PM, August 29, 2005  
Blogger tara said...

Just to let you know - I'm making these tonight (a hybrid between this recipe and that posted by Nicky over on DD). We're having people over tomorrow night and I'm using them in an arugula salad with parmesan (or chèvre) and balsamic. A perfect salad course, in my humble opinion - thanks!

8:30 AM, September 15, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Tara, do tell: how was the salad? It sounds pretty wonderful--a surefire hit, I'd even venture to say...

3:41 PM, September 17, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds good, I always need a new Jersey tomato idea!!! can't wait to try it!!!!

3:57 PM, August 11, 2006  
Anonymous kellydna said...

I roasted tomatoes today. Every bit as delicious as promised! Take a look.

6:34 PM, September 14, 2008  
Anonymous Irina said...

I've been hooked on this recipe for the past month, making at least one batch of slow-roasted tomatoes a week - and by "batch," I mean 15-20 tomatoes! I'm using Roma tomatoes - it is one of my least favorite varieties for eating fresh, but slow-roasting makes them so much more delicious. I end up eating nearly half of them immediately after they come out of the oven... Whatever is left is quickly consumed within the next few days as a favorite mid-afternoon snack, in salads, and as part of lunch at work, with homemade farmers cheese and mixed greens sprinkled with balsamic vinegar. Yum! I shared the recipe with my mother and she made a batch last weekend - she is addicted too now.

2:07 PM, July 29, 2009  
Blogger tenaaz said...

I've oven-dried romas for about 8-9hours...large ones leaving the seeds in...by the end, they're still a little soft and flexible, not like the dried ones found in stores, then I stored them in a sealed glass container in e.v. olive oil, with a garlic clove & basil to help preserve in the fridge. After 3 weeks, there was mold on top and I had to throw them out. I want to use them primarily to eat straight or in salads and not in sauce. Was thinking of popping the whole container including the olive oil into the freezer, instead of freezing just the tomatoes on cookie sheets. I read your comment that freezing them on the sheets make them mushy and icy and not suitable to eating straight. Has anyone tried to freeze them in the olive oil? Alternatively, how can I get them to last longer in the fridge. 2 weeks is insufficient time to use them up when I make a big batch in the summer. I'm thinking that perhaps I didn't dry them out enough. Some websites are suggesting that this sometimes takes 12 hours to get them sufficiently dry. I do however, prefer the softer texture and don't want to dry out to a fully leathery state. Any help or insight please?

11:23 AM, January 09, 2010  
Blogger Riv said...

Made these this morning (all morning :) and I have to say, while they were yummy, they are even better made with halved cherry or grape tomatoes. They don't need quite as long in the oven and turn into tomato candy. Also the roma tomatoes, even after 6 hours in the oven, were still somewhat watery inside, and even a bit mealy. (I guess I've never been a great fan of romas). But don't get me wrong, they were still fabulous in a grilled chevre and roasted tomato on whole grain bread :)

6:17 PM, May 29, 2011  

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