If you told me that someone secretly hooked up a drip line supplying Miracle Grow to several or our backyard grape tomato plants last summer, it would have explained a thing or two.
Each summer, we grow an ever-changing assortment of tomatoes. Year to year, certain varieties naturally out produce others, but the overall yield seems normal. The two plants in question, however, grew to such monstrous proportions that I could practically hide inside the foliage as I attempted to harvest the seemingly never-ending supply.
Though we ate our fair share fresh off the vine and I gave many away, cooking with the vast supply of miniature tomatoes became a personal challenge. After one particularly fruitful day, I made my blender tomato sauce—a recipe usually made with larger tomatoes—with six pounds of grape tomatoes. (The sauce was delicious and the yield was a good bit higher, likely due to the lower moisture content in the grape-size bites.)
The recipe to which I most frequently returned to make good use of this bumper crop was the following slow roasted option. Low and slow heat concentrates the tomatoes’ natural sweetness, and the few additional ingredients enhance without overpowering. The easy method earns high marks for its quick prep and versatility. As an added bonus, the cooked tomatoes freeze well allowing the seasonal flavor to be enjoyed long after those backyard vines have withered.
With their concentrated savory-sweet flavor, these gems will transform plain pasta, stand in for pizza sauce, and complement a variety of dishes including summer staples like zucchini, corn, and green beans or winter standbys like mushrooms, winter squash, and hearty greens. I even eat them for breakfast with scrambled eggs, frittatas, and omelets.
Additional ways to enjoy slow roasted tomatoes:
- Mix with almost anything involving sautéed, grilled, or roasted zucchini…or “zoodles.”
- Mound onto grilled chicken, top with a little fresh mozzarella, and broil until the cheese melts for a healthier, shortcut version of chicken Parmesan.
- Spoon over grilled or baked fish from tuna to salmon or any white fish.
- Serve alongside grilled steak with a baked potato or oven fries for a simple and satisfying meal.
- These tomatoes will make the most basic pasta dish special and will complement ingredients like pesto, olives, ricotta, and goat cheese quite well. White beans and leftover chicken make convenient protein additions.
- For a Greek spin, toss into hot pasta along with cooked shrimp, chopped artichokes, and crumbled feta. Add a drizzle of olive oil, fresh herbs and black olives to taste.
- And don’t forget pasta salads…
- Try a BLT sandwich–or pizza!–using roasted tomatoes instead of raw.
- Kick up a basic grilled cheese by sneaking some of these gems inside.
- Put a few of these treats on top of your favorite garlic bread. Add a base of arugula or other baby greens for a salad-pizza concept.
- Similarly, prepare crostini by starting with a layer of goat cheese, Brie, or ricotta and topping with the slow roasted tomatoes.
- For an impressive yet simple summertime hors d’oeuvre, thread a couple of roasted tomatoes on a short skewer or toothpick, alternating with a small piece of fresh mozzarella and a Kalamata olive.
- Make a gloriously easy salad by tossing the cooked tomatoes with fresh mozzarella or crumbled feta and mixing with your favorite greens. Finish with a drizzle of syrupy balsamic vinegar.
- Add them to your favorite grain-based salad from quinoa to couscous to rice.
- For an easy and elegant meal, scoop the roasted tomatoes over a bowl of polenta or cheese grits. Top with shrimp for protein.
- The slow roasted tomatoes will also complement almost any egg dish, from basic scrambled eggs to quiches and frittatas. Add the caramelized tomatoes as an ingredient or simply spoon them over top of the cooked eggs.
- Add extra savory flavor to any green salad by using in place of–or in addition to–fresh tomatoes.
Yield: 3+ cups or approximately 8 servings
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
- 8-10 whole gloves of garlic, unpeeled (optional -- or use more if you love roasted garlic)
- Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Pour the olive oil onto a large, sided baking sheet and sprinkle the herbs, salt, and pepper on top of the oil.
- Halve all of the tomatoes lengthwise, and place them on the baking sheet along with the unpeeled cloves of garlic. Toss to fully coat with the olive oil-herb mixture (I find it easiest to use my hands), and then arrange the tomatoes so they are cut-side up and in a single layer.
- Bake the tomatoes for 2 to 3 hours. You want the tomatoes to be shriveled but still a little juicy inside. The precise amount of time will depend on the size of your tomatoes and the oven. (The grape tomatoes from my most recent backyard plants were ready in about 2 hours and 15 minutes.)
- Remove from the oven and, when cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic from the peels, discarding the peels. You can use the tomatoes right away (sprinkle with a little chopped basil, if desired), or let them cool and refrigerate or freeze for later use as a simple side dish, salad or pasta add-in, pizza or crostini topper, salsa for grilled meats, omelet or frittata ingredient, etc. The tomatoes are delicious served hot, cold, or at room temperature.
- Small Roma tomatoes could also be used, but to ensure that all of the tomatoes are done at the same time, it is best not to mix sizes on the same baking sheet. Also, larger tomatoes will require more cooking time.