For the past few weeks, the deer have been feasting on my only tomato plant, a San Marzano varietal I bought at our local organic gardening center, but a few days ago, against all odds, I spied a few green tomatoes on the vine, and today, a few more.
With any luck, there will be slow-roasted tomatoes this summer, made in my very own oven, with thyme and garlic -- and tomatoes -- from my very own garden.
These little gems, which take the place of sun-dried tomatoes in my cooking, are easy to make, easy to freeze, and easy to share (the perfect hostess gift). The real gift, though, is to your cooking, especially in mid-winter when you can savor the burst of summer flavor while your garden is covered in snow.
Stored in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks (if covered with oil in the jar), or in the freezer for an entire winter, slow-roasted tomatoes give you a taste of summer all year round.
A half-sheet pan (jelly-roll pan) holds five pounds of tomatoes. It sounds like a lot, but I make two or three pans each summer. With five minutes of prep, you can create a pantry staple to carry you through from one tomato season to the next.
Preheat your oven to 200°F. Start with 5 pounds of tomatoes, either plum, or beefsteak, or yellow, or even cherry tomatoes or juliettes. 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.
Corn, bean and two tomato salad
A perfect summer salad or side dish, alongside grilled salmon or chicken. Serves 6-8.
6 ears of corn, kernels removed
1 tsp olive oil or butter
2 cups cooked black beans (if using canned beans, rinse and drain)
2 peaches or nectarines, diced
4 slow-roasted tomato halves, diced, plus a bit of the oil
2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
Juice of 2 limes
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ancho chile powder
2 tsp rice wine or cider vinegar
1 package sugar substitute, or 1 tsp honey or agave nectar
1/4 cup canola or other neutral-flavored oil
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
Shuck the corn (remove the husks), and with a sharp knife, slice off the kernels (tip: try standing the ear of corn vertically in a Bundt pan. When the kernels fly off, the high sides of the pan will catch them.)
In a small nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil or butter, and sauté the corn kernels for 1-2 minutes, until just heated through. Place corn in a mixing bowl with beans, peaches, slow-roasted and fresh tomatoes.
In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine lime juice, cumin, ancho chile, vinegar, sweetener, canola oil, salt and pepper. Shake to emulsify. Taste, and adjust seasoning. Pour on the bean mixture, and toss well to combine. Serve immediately, or let sit at room temperature for up to two hours, stirring occasionally.
Can be made ahead and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before serving.
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