Athough fresh tomatoes are available year-round, I enjoy them most during the summer, especially from my own garden or a farmer’s market.
A farmer here in Vermont once told me to eat one of her just-picked heirloom tomatoes with only a sprinkling of sea salt. She said it would be a life-changing experience — and it was.
About the writer: Jim Romanoff is a recipe developer, food writer for the Associated Press and an avid home cook, based in Burlington, VT. In 2011, he received the IACP Burt Greene award for Culinary Writing That Makes a Difference. He has also been honored by the James Beard Foundation.
While it’s refreshing to eat the best specimens just as you would an apple, there are simple preparations that maximize the flavor and nutrition. For example, I like roasting tomatoes at high heat to concentrate the flavor and bring out the sweetness by caramelizing the natural sugars. This technique also helps reduce the bitter and acidic qualities in some varieties. What’s more, this method is especially good for super-early or late crops that don’t have perfect flavor and texture. The result is an intensely savory and sweet tomato with a dense consistency.
Cooking tomatoes can diminish the potency of the fruit’s vitamins, but it helps concentrate other nutrients, such as lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that studies suggest may be important to heart health.
In this simple recipe, I’ve roasted plum tomatoes topped with garlic, fresh parsley and thyme, but you can use any fresh herb you have on hand, or even some fresh breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.
Start to finish: 1 hour 30 minutes (15 minutes active)
Makes 24 tomato halves
12 ripe plum tomatoes, washed, dried and halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Preheat oven to 425 F.
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For more ways to preserve the food you grow, see the articles in Keeping the Harvest.
Line a large baking sheet with foil. Place the tomatoes on the sheet, cut-side up. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 1 hour, or until the tomatoes are shriveled and beginning to brown on the bottom.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the remaining oil, parsley, thyme and garlic. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and sprinkle the herb mixture evenly over the top. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes, or until the herbs are just beginning to brown.
These moist and flavorful roasted tomatoes make an excellent side dish on their own but there are plenty of other things I like to do with them:
- Coarsely chop them and toss with pasta along with some flavorful cheese, such as pecorino or parmesan.
- Top a sandwich with them instead of using a high-fat spread such as mayonnaise.
- Purée them with their skins to make an intense pasta or pizza sauce.
- Chop them and add some fresh herbs to make roasted tomato salsa. The condiment makes an excellent accompaniment for grilled chicken or fish.
- Use them to top a flatbread, along with some fresh basil, roasted peppers and part-skim mozzarella.
- Purée them with chicken broth, canned white beans and some fresh oregano and thyme to make a quick, flavorful soup.
- Chop them and scramble them with beaten eggs, sliced black olives, a few crumbles of feta cheese and some shredded prosciutto.
- Make a tomato-infused hummus by puréeing them in a food processor with a can of chickpeas and a bit of garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper.