Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Slow Roasted Goodness

August- where did you go?! It’s hard to believe tomorrow is September 1st, I feel like this summer flew by, as most of them do. In a way, I am glad August passed so quickly, as it was a long six weeks of waiting for Kyle to come back from sea. The ship made it back safely into its homeport this past Saturday, and we spent the weekend celebrating his return all over Newport (I’ll be posting an update of our adventures over on The Humble Home later). It’s been absolutely awesome to have him home, and I’m doing my best to not think about him heading back out to sea again after Labor Day weekend.

Last week I hit up the local farmer’s market and bought a HUGE sack of Roma tomatoes- I think I was so excited about fresh tomatoes, that I got a little ahead of myself! While I did my best to get through as many as possible, I knew I would have to use up the rest before they turned. I adore slow roasted tomatoes, as it is a very simple and delicious way of prolonging the enjoyment of your tomatoes while concentrating the flavor. There really is no limit to the application of slow roasted tomatoes- over pasta, grilled meats, on toasted bagels or sandwiches, blended in with hummus, or just as is with a little fresh basil (my favorite application!). The tomatoes can be roasted off in large or small batches, depending on how many you have on hand in surplus, and when stored properly, can last a couple of months in the refrigerator. Additionally, if you roast off a large batch, once cooled, the tomatoes can be portioned off into freezer or vacuum bags and will last even longer in the freezer for use all winter.

When I roast my tomatoes, I usually throw in a couple of heads of garlic to roast as well. As my friend Brianne over at Sweet Cheeks in the Kitchen said: “Garlic. How I love you. Let me count the ways”. Roasted garlic, like the tomatoes, is a wonderful addition to really any dish. Once roasted, it keeps well, and has a wonderfully mellow flavor. I roasted one head with plain olive oil, and the second with white truffle oil, and they both turned out incredibly flavorful! Although the roasting process usually takes a couple of hours, the hands on time is quite minimal (good for a Sunday night roasting, so you can use them all week), and the end product is really worth the time.

For a beyond easy hors d’ oeuvres, toast up some baguette slices, spread on the roasted garlic, add a fresh basil leaf, top with a slice of roasted tomato, and voila!- instant satisfaction, and a treat that appeals to all, as it’s vegan friendly, but the meaty, robust flavor of the tomato more than compensates for the carnivores. You can even take it a step further and top it off with a little crumbled chevre or fresh mozzarella and pop it under the broiler to brown for a few minutes. Once cooled, I packed my tomato slices and garlic with a couple of sprigs of fresh picked basil, and we took it to the park for a snack with pita chips. There is nothing better than a treat that is simple, rich with flavor and easy to transport, and slow roasted tomatoes & garlic fit the bill perfectly!

Slow Roasted Tomatoes & Garlic

-Roma, Cherry or other fresh tomatoes
-2 or 3 Full heads of garlic
-Sea Salt
-Fresh Cracked Pepper
-Thyme sprigs
-Extra Virgin Olive oil (I recommend using a high quality oil here- given that the ingredient list is short, using top notch components will make a big difference. For a little more of a twist, a flavor infused oil, such as the white truffle oil I used on one the garlic heads)

Pre heat the oven to 225 degrees. Halve cherry tomatoes, or cut Romas into thirds or quarters. Cut off the top quarter of each head of garlic to expose all cloves. Arrange tomato slices and garlic on a baking sheet. Sprinkle tomatoes generously with sea salt, fresh pepper and olive oil. Lay thyme sprigs across the top of tomatoes. Drizzle olive oil over garlic heads, fully covering exposed garlic. Top with sea salt & pepper. Place baking sheet on the middle oven rack and roast, checking every 30 minutes or so. Depending on the size and moisture level of your tomatoes and the capacity of your oven, complete roasting should take between an hour and a half to two hours. To intensify the flavors, during the last 30 minute cycle, turn the oven up to 275 to draw out any additional moisture. When done, the tomatoes should have a rich red-brown color and appear dried around the edges, and the garlic should be “popping” out of its jacket. Remove pan from oven and let cool. If not using immediately, store tomatoes in a glass jar or dish with a tight fitting lid, covered by a layer of olive oil. Once cooled, the garlic cloves should slip right out of the skin, and can be left whole or made into a paste, and also stores well in a covered dish.