Eeeeeeek — it's the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!
Not the campy horror flick, of course; 'tis the season for "killer" delicious tomatoes from the garden. In early September here in Rhode Island, every roadside stand, every farmers' market, every friend's vegetable garden — even the two tomato plants in my own garden, which cooking buddy Marcia made me put in over my strong objection on the grounds that I have a veggie black thumb — is hemorhhaging ripe red tomatoes right now, this week, all shapes and sizes, all at the same time.
What to do? Run for cover?
No, these killer tomatoes are the kind you want to keep around. In your pantry.
I love to turn them into roasted tomatoes, slow-cooked in the oven with garlic and thyme. I pack them into the freezer, and wait for winter, when the tomatoes in the market are pink and pale. Just when I'm tempted to buy expensive sun-dried tomatoes, if only for intensity of flavor to add to soups and stews, I remember my freezer stash.
Not all homemade foods qualify for inclusion in The Perfect Pantry, but a few, like roasted tomatoes and pesto, inhabit my freezer year-round, ready to release the taste of summer in the middle of winter. Once you've cooked with your own roasted tomatoes, they'll be staples in your pantry, too.
Here's my method: Preheat your oven to 200°F. Start with 5-6 lbs tomatoes, either roma, or beefsteak, or yellow, or even cherry tomatoes if that's what you have in the garden. Cut the tomatoes in half end-to-end, and place cut side up on a half-sheet (jelly roll) pan. My half-sheet pans hold 5 lbs of large roma tomatoes. Slice 4-5 cloves of garlic, and sprinkle over the tomatoes. Strip several sprigs of fresh thyme, and sprinkle the leaves over the tomatoes. Season with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil liberally over all of the tomatoes. Place in the oven for 10-12 hours; the tomatoes will collapse, but not completely dry out. Pack into a freezeable container, and pour the oil from the pan over the top.
Pasta with slow-roasted tomatoes
This is almost too easy to be called a recipe. It's great for picnics or potlucks. Serves 4.
1 lb pasta of your choice, cooked
1-1/2 cups roasted tomatoes, chopped, with a bit of the oil
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
2-3 Tbsp mild pitted olives, chopped
Fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, to taste
Place first four ingredients in a large bowl, and toss. Add cheese. Eat.
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