Yes, friends, it's that time of year.
Time to make daily runs to the farm stand up the road.
Time to call Elwood to track down a few heads of his home-grown garlic.
Time to pull some fragrant thyme from my garden.
Time to bring out my favorite sea salt that Katie sent from France.
Time to make slow-roasted tomatoes.
For the past three summers, I've been making trays and trays of these tomatoes to freeze for the winter. Store-bought sun dried tomatoes, banished from my pantry, taste like shoe leather compared to the soft, chewy texture of tomatoes cooked low and slow in your own oven.
And the flavor? Concentrated and delicate, no matter what type of tomato you use (and anything will work, from tiny sungolds to giant beefsteaks). You can almost taste the goodness of Vitamin C and the anti-oxidant properties of lycopene.
Why do I keep these in the freezer all year, replenishing my supply every August and September when tomatoes are at their peak at the farm stands? So I can make tomato hummus and salad dressing and bean dip, and pasta with avocado and goat cheese, and a tart with onions and arugula, and a rich romesco sauce.
Here's my method: Preheat your oven to 200°F. Start with 5 pounds of tomatoes, either plum, or beefsteak, or yellow, or even cherry tomatoes if that's what you have in the garden (the tomatoes in my photo are juliettes, which are 2-3 inches long). Cut the tomatoes in half end-to-end, and place cut side up on a rimmed sheet pan. Chop 4 cloves of garlic, and sprinkle over the tomatoes. Strip several sprigs of fresh thyme, and sprinkle the leaves over the tomatoes. Season with coarse sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil liberally over all of the tomatoes; you'll want to save the oil for use in your cooking. Place in the oven for 10-12 hours*; the tomatoes will collapse, but not completely dry out. Pack into small ziploc bags or a freezeable container, and pour the oil from the pan over the top. (*Note: smaller tomatoes will take much less time, so check after 4-5 hours.) Can be frozen for up to one year.
Tomato and goat cheese bruschetta
An infinitely flexible appetizer; use whatever cheese you have on hand. Fontina, brie, or fresh mozzarella are good alternatives. Serves 6.
8 oz soft goat cheese (or boursin or other cheese, sliced)
20-24 whole basil leaves
48 small slow-roasted tomato halves, or 2 large slow-roasted tomatoes, chopped
Sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
Preheat your oven broiler, toaster oven or grill. Slice the baguette on an angle into 1/2-inch thick pieces. Place on a sheet pan, and lightly toast in the oven (or grill); bread should be warm but not cracker-crispy.
Spread each slice with goat cheese, top with a basil leaf and two small slow-roasted tomato halves or chopped tomato. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with some of the tomato cooking oil (or with a fruity extra-virgin olive oil).
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