Monday, September 17, 2012
ROASTED CHERRY TOMATOES
Here’s another secret I’ve been keeping from you: the best thing ever to do with leftover cherry tomatoes (or grape tomatoes, or whatever shape the little guys happen to be). I don’t know about you, but often I used to be plagued by partially used baskets of small tomatoes; sure, you can just eat the really good height-of-summer ones out of hand, but what about the slightly softened, wizened ones that remain at the end of the week, or the less-than-desirable wintertime grocery-store ones that taste OK when cooked but are bland when raw? If I couldn’t sneak them into a meal somewhere, too often they’d end up in the trash. One Friday, faced with yet another wilting cherry tomato surplus, I started Food Blog Searching and found this recipe at Leite’s Culinaria, from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day. I didn’t have to buy any special ingredients, and it was so easy to throw together that I figured the stakes would be low if I failed, so I decided to give it a shot, letting the tomatoes brown in the often while I watched a movie, filling the apartment with a wonderful aroma. Putting maple syrup on tomatoes felt strange, but that dash of extra sweetness was the key to transforming my wrinkly old bottom-of-bowl specimens into amazingly addictive bits of caramelized tomato candy. (For best results, use Grade B syrup, which lends a tantalizing smokiness.)
I’ve always hated sun-dried tomatoes—the raisins of the tomato world!—but these were worlds away from any of the bitter, leathery monstrosities I’ve ever had. The flavor concentrates, but some juiciness remains, along with an irresistible tender-chewy texture (yes, these will stick in your teeth and you will love it) and the perfect sweet-tart-salty balance that all the finest snacks possess. I ate every single one straight off the baking sheet that day, and I’ve made these probably a dozen times since then, often just a half-recipe or less, depending on how many orphaned cherry tomatoes are on hand. The recipe is so simple, barely a recipe at all once you’ve made it a couple of times, that I tend to do this as an afterthought and immediately devour the evidence without photographing it. But finally, this time around, the lighting was pretty good and I already had my camera in the kitchen to document something else I was working on when these tomatoes came out of the oven, and now I can finally share these with you. Make them before tomato season is over! Or, if you must, make them in January with out-of-season ones from South America; it’s the best treatment for those poor things and will convert them into something far better. If you don’t want to eat them straight out of the oven, I’m sure they’re wonderful on pizzas, pasta, salads, and more. Just don’t forget to snack on the hardened puddles of syrupy juice that adhere to the edges of the parchment—they may look blackened and burnt, but peel them up and pop them in your mouth and they’re like little bites of toffee. Tomato toffee!
1 pint cherry tomatoes, any color, stemmed
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Grade B maple syrup
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Slice the tomatoes in half and place them on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, maple syrup, and salt. Pour the mixture over the tomatoes and gently toss until well coated. Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer, cut side up, and roast, without stirring, until the tomatoes shrink a bit and caramelize around the edges, 45 to 60 minutes.
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Good; I like to eat them right away, but they’ll keep for about a week in the refrigerator. Just let them cool, scrape them into a glass or plastic container along with any liquid that was left on the baking sheet, and seal tightly.