Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes in Olive Oil - Packing up Summer

The tomato harvest has begun in earnest. And these aren’t the timid, tentatively flavored tomatoes of early July. The tomatoes I’m seeing at the market now are juicy, fragrant, and bursting out of their skins. What’s interesting about how beset we can feel during tomato season is that, even 100 years ago, tomatoes were barely consumed in this country. They were grown ornamentally in North American gardens and known as “love apples” but were widely held, as members of the Nightshade family, to be poisonous - much as the eggplant was in Europe.

The tomato was brought to Europe from its native Central and South America in the first half of the 16th Century, and it seems to have been the Italians who first grew the fruit for food. There they called it “poma Peruviana” or “poma d’oro” meaning “Peruvian apple” or “golden apple” – early varieties may have been yellow - but “poma d’oro” seems to have stuck. It was only once Italy, Spain, and then later France and Britain had fallen for the tomato, that North Americans were willing to give it a try.

Several of you have asked me for some recipes that make the most of the tomato harvest, and I hope the Pappa al Pomodoro from last week helped a bit. But here’s a method that’s useful for setting aside something special for after the deluge ends – usually sometime in October around here.

Oven-roasted tomatoes are rich and sweet without taking on the cloying intensity of sun dried tomatoes – which I feel have been horribly overused in the States. These lovelies from Eckerton Hill Farm include Green Zebras, Brandywines, and White Wonders, but you can make this with any standard varieties too. Just choose whatever’s ripest and freshest, and, if you roast them gently and patiently, you’ll find they’ll last under a blanket of olive oil for at least 3 – 4 months in the fridge.

What to do with your oven-roasted tomatoes? They make fantastic bruschetta – alone or mixed gently with some fresh herbs, crumbled feta, anchovy fillets, or chopped black olives. They’re also a great addition to pasta – below I’ve roasted a little eggplant in olive oil, sizzled some garlic and fresh thyme, and tossed the whole thing with some of the smaller roasted tomatoes and fettucine. You can purée them into soups, melt them into long-simmered sauces, and use them as a savory-sweet pairing for meat and fish – along the same lines as the tomatoes I roasted with pork chops in July. However you use them, and I’d love to hear what you come up with, this is the best way I know to set aside the bounty of a good tomato harvest for the colder days ahead.

Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes in Olive Oil

Makes about 1 pint (varies according to water content in your tomatoes)

1 – 2 very clean pint jars

5 lbs fresh, ripe tomatoes, rinsed well and dried
extra virgin olive oil (you’ll need lots here)
kosher salt
1 bunch fresh thyme, rinsed well and dried
small handful fresh whole basil leaves, rinsed well and dried

Preheat the oven to 500 F

Sterilize your jar by putting it in the oven for at least 30 minutes. Remove with tongs, and be careful not to touch the jar. As always, remember that hot glass looks the same as cool glass!

Reduce the oven temperature to 250 F

Cover a sheet pan with foil. Slice any large or especially firm tomatoes in half across the equator (so all the seed chambers are exposed). Arrange the tomatoes on the sheet pan and drizzle with lots of olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and then pinch over half of the thyme. Roast on the bottom rack of the oven for 4 – 6 hours, checking occasionally and turning once or twice if necessary, until much of the water in the tomatoes has baked off. Don’t let them get dry or leathery though – the flavor will change too much. The finished tomatoes will seem like a bit of a mess, but treat them gently and they'll hold together.

Allow the tomatoes to cool. Layer them in the jar with the fresh basil leaves and some new sprigs of thyme. Pour over fresh extra virgin olive oil and try to remove any air bubbles. The oil should cover the tomatoes by at least an inch – this seal is what lets them last so long. Store in the fridge.

Roasted Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta

Serves 4 as an antipasto

12 roasted tomatoes
fresh basil, thyme, and/or parsley, chopped
4 anchovy fillets preserved in oil, minced
3 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup black olives, pitted and chopped
4 thick slices of good bread
1 clove of garlic, peeled and cut in half
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, gently toss the tomatoes with the fresh herbs, minced anchovies, crumbled feta, or chopped olives. Grill or toast the bread. While still hot, rub with the cut garlic, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Arrange 3 tomatoes on each toast and season generously with black pepper. Serve immediately.

Roasted Tomato & Eggplant Fettucine with Thyme

Serves 4 - 6

2 thin, long Italian eggplants
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
1 lb dry fettucine
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thinly
1 cup roasted tomatoes packed in olive oil
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
5 stems fresh thyme, leaves chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Trim the ends and then cut the eggplant in half lengthwise. Cut the halves into inch-thick slices, toss with olive oil and salt immediately, and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake in the center of the oven for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant over, and bake for another 15 minutes until golden brown.
In a large pot, boil some well-salted water. Toss in the fettucine and boil, stirring occasionally, until par-cooked (about half-done). Drain and reserve. (Note: My fettucine took about 3 minutes, but cooking time always varies according to brand).

Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add a generous glug of olive oil and then the sliced garlic. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Sauté, stirring often for 1 minute.

Add the crushed red pepper and then toss in the fettucine, eggplant, roasted tomatoes, and fresh thyme leaves. Add some more olive oil and sauté, stirring gently but often, for about 2 minutes, or until the fettucine is al dente.

Check the seasoning with more salt and red pepper and serve immediately.


winedeb said...

Amanda this is a great idea! Roasting and putting up with olive oil! Can enjoy all winter! Does the basil turn any color during keeping?

Patricia Scarpin said...

Amanda, as a true tomato lover I'm crazy about these!
They could go wonderfully in so many dishes, great suggestion!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Hi Winedeb! Thanks. The herbs will certainly lose that bright green over time, but they infuse the oil with their flavors and perfume along the way.

Hi Patricia! Thanks so much, I'm so glad you like. Let me know how you use them!

Joanna said...

Amanda, I am SO pleased you posted this, because I'm just about to slow roast some tomatoes, and I was wondering about storing them in olive oil in the fridge ... we'll all have to keep each other posted about what we do with all these lovely roasted toms!

Thanks for sharing

Garrett said...

Wow, this just looks divine! So tempting to make! I love those shots of the tomatoes that you took.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Joanna - I can;t wait to hear what you do with them! I think tonight I'm putting a few in a thoroughly un-Mediterranean toad-in-the-hole!!!

Garrett - Thanks so much! They're fantastically useful to have around - hope you enjoy.

Joanne Rendell said...

I once heard that tomatoes are wonderful for hangovers ;-) If that's true, you'll have a nice little supply the festive season.

Jan said...

Amanda, thank you! I love the idea of this, and they're so versatile. The bruschetta sound delicious.

Wendy said...

My tomato plants were a complete failure! I'm extremely jealous looking at your beautiful fruits. The recipes sound absolutely delightful though. Won't let my lack of homegrown produce stop me from trying them out.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Jo - From your lips to God's ears, my friend.

Jan - Thanks so much! Versatile is right! I like them in practically everything. Enjoy.

Wendy - At least you tried though! My apartment didn't come with a vegetable area, so mine have to be bought too!

Tina said...

Oh my goodness, that fettucine recipe looks divine!

Lucy said...

Ah, lucky me. I've literally just been ordering heirloom seeds online and salivating over what I'll do with them come summer. The tomatoes are, as usual, the most enticing (such romantic names).

I agree with you wholeheartedly about that cloying flavour of sun dried. This is such a simple, elegant thing to do. Yum.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Tina - Thanks so much! Hope you enjoy it.

Lucy - Thank you! I think sun dried tomatoes played out here in the late 80s. Of course they're important and can be delicious if used properly, but too often I see them used as though they were fresh tomatoes rather than as a seasoning agent.
And the seeds sound great! Now that you have a big harvest to look forward to, you should have lots of extra tomatoes to put up for the winter!

Meg said...

I've roasted like this, but haven't tried putting them up (things like that never seem to occur to me). About how long do you find they keep for you? The oil gives a subtle (and scrumptious) flavor to a simple salad dressing.

Barbara said...

I'm sorry it is the end of summer for you but it means it will soon be summer here. Yay.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

These oven roasted tomatoes sound great! I just love them, they are great on sandwiches, in fritattas, in soups, dips and pretty much anything you can imagine! Or my favorite - just eating them like chips!

Big Boys Oven said...

Cool! Great to have stumbled upon your website. I was looking to this oven dried tomato recipe. Thank you very much. If free do drop by at our website. keep in touch.

sognatrice said...

I love roasted anything, but especially tomatoes and red peppers--yum!

And I definitely agree with you about sun-dried tomatoes in America; I was reluctant to eat them here because I really don't like the American version, but here, they are just lovely--and used sparingly :)

Joanna said...

Roasted tomatoes in toad in the hole - what a good idea ... I'm just about to start on the roasting, next task for the day.

I've tagged you for a fantastic four meme ...


Figs Olives Wine said...

Meg - I'd say 3 or 4 months at least. It all depends on how clean your jar was, how clean the utensils you use for fishing out the tomatoes are, and, of course, how long you can hold out before eating the whole thing!

Barbara - We've still got a few weeks left before it gets crisp, but I'm ok with it because I've been envying all your autumn and winter food for months!!! Ask me again in January and I'll be whining about season envy each time I read your blog - what else is new?!

Jenn - That's the problem! They are so good to munch on that it's a bit of a challenge to keep them around!! I'll probably have to do another batch at the end of the season to get me through the winter.

Big Boys Oven - Welcome! I hope the recipe's a help, and I'll be sure to stop by!

Sognatrice - Roasting is definitely my "go to" when I want something delicious. That and braising are definitely my 2 favorites! I'd love to hear more about how the sun dried tomatoes are used there! Because over here I'm just not interested anymore. It's more just a seasoning agent there, correct?

Hi Joanna! Thanks for thinking of me. I'll come over and check it out now. Happy roasting!

Hannah said...

Hi Amanda - thanks for your lovely post on my blog - you blog is stunning too and I am equally glad to have found it! My brother is currently working in New York and loving it so I will make sure I forward him the link to your blog. I will definitely be trying to tomato recipe - I have an aga so I normally try mine out in the bottom over very slowly

marisa said...

They look like jewels! Beautiful late summer colors here Amanda.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Hannah, thanks so much! I'm really looking forward to exploring more of your site. That afternoon tea was sublime. What a dream to have an aga! One day when we're not in a New York apartment with a galley kitchen...

Marisa, thank you! They are awfully pretty under the olive oil, aren't they?

Susan said...

We currently have a glorious bounty of heirloom tomatoes here in San Diego, and I agree that roasting them brings out a richness and complexity that is unmatched. I love them roasted then mixed with pasta and fresh ricotta or mascarpone for a simple, rustic dinner. I also like them with fresh sweet corn and lots of fresh herbs such as parsley, basil, or cilantro. Lovely photos and recipes.

Maryann said...

I love roasted tomatoes! I let them caramelize with garlic and fresh herbs.Such a deep, rich flavor. When the surplus hits, I roast batches, make them into sauce, and freeze. It's great returning to them later in the year. your blog.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Susan - Thank you! Both those preparations sound wonderful! The creamy freshness of ricotta against their savory sweetness must be fantastic.

Maryann - Thank so much! I look forward to checking yours out too. And I agree about breaking down the finished product for sauces. You lose quantity, but there's nothing like the flavor!

Christina said...

Simply beautiful. My second round of tomatoes are beginning to come in from the garden, and this will be another way I try preserving them. Thank you for the inspiration.

David Hall said...

I love preserving food. It makes you feel good! Especially if you have a glut of product such as these tomatoes. It brings a little summer to our winter! Beautiful post.


Jennifer said...

What a fabulous way to enjoy that fresh taste of summer all year long!
Wonderful recipes!

Julia said...

What a great idea. Lovely blog Amanda, I'll be coming back for more.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Christina, Thanks! I hope this comes in handy for the harvest!

David, Thanks so much. It does make you feel good, doesn't it? It must be instinctual, I think, but I love knowing I've put aside something when it was in its prime for colder months.

Jennifer, Thank you. It does end up feeling like a little jar of summer in the fridge!

Julia, Welcome and thanks!

bri said...

Saw the name of your blog and it, as well as your philosophy piqued my interest since my blog is I LOVE your roasted heirloom tomatoes recipe. I've been wanting to do that with the bounty we have in Sonoma County, but hadn't looked into the technique. Thanks for the inspiration. I will totally do it. The roasted tomatoes lend themselves to so many wonderful dishes. Thanks!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Bri, welcome! So glad you like the tomato recipe. I'll definitely be checking out your site too.

Jen said...

Oh, this looks wonderful. We have a lot of heirloom tomato booths at our farmers market - we're blessed with many organic and heritage farmers in our area. One woman has over 40 varieties. I can't wait to try this!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Jen, 40 varieties! How heavenly. It sounds like you live in a really fascinating area for cooks!

Meg said...

I made this (well, my mom did), and it was terrific. I'll have to make a bigger second batch. Thanks- I had roasted tomatoes before but it had simply never occurred to me to try preserving them.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Meg, I'm so glad you've been enjoying the recipe! It looks like you've come up with some great uses for them!

swirlingnotions said...

Holy moly does that fettucine look delicious! I've got about a half dozen eggplant hanging in the garden that I was actually going to go Asian with, but you just changed my tack. Thanks Amanda!

swirlingnotions said...

PS . . . have you ever frozen your roasted tomatoes? I did that last year, cooled them, stacked them in single layers on parchment paper and tucked them in ziploc bags. Then just pulled a few off and left them in a bowl on the counter to defrost before chopping them up and tossing them with pasta, on bruschetta, etc. I just used the last of the bunch in May. It was SO lovely to have them around all through the winter.

Bri . . . where in Sonoma County are you? I'm in Healdsburg.


Figs Olives Wine said...

Swirlingnotions, thanks so much. I hope you enjoy the pasta! And I've never frozen them, but I love the idea of having them around more than a few months! Thanks for the tip.

Bri said...

Hi Amanda, Bri from here. I tried out your roasted heirloom tomato recipe and it was awesome! I put a post up on my blog and linked to yours. Our local farmer's markets in Santa Rosa have at least 20 or 30 varieties of heirlooms, so it's such a treat to feature them this way. We ate them up over pasta the same day, there was no way they were going to stick around to be preserved. Maybe sometime when I grow my own. Thanks again!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Bri, I'm so pleased to know that you're enjoying the tomatoes! Did you see above that swirling notions above freezes them? I may try it myself.

Ivonne said...


I can only imagine how roasting them brings out their incredible flavour even more. Summer in a jar, indeed!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Ivonne, the slow, slow roast really does bring out their best, most irresistible flavors. Thank you, and I hope you enjoy!

Shayne said...

I can't help it I had to leave a note because all of these recipes with these beautiful tomatos has me wanting to come over for dinner. thank you for sharing.


Figs Olives Wine said...

Shayne, thank you so much! It has been a bit of a tomato feast around here lately, you're right!

Hannah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hannah said...

Hi Amanda,
I made four jars of these and they are heavenly!
One question: I opened one of the jars and the olive oil is starting to solidify. Any ideas about why this might have happened and how to prevent it in future jars?
Also, I love the blog--I've been a silent fan for a while now...

Figs Olives Wine said...

Hannah, thank you so much. It's lovely to know you're out there. The oil solidifies when the temperature gets cold. I take my tomatoes out 30 - 40 minutes before I need to use them.

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