My friend Lois claims having these tomatoes on hand is like having money in the bank. I use them when sundried tomatoes are called for but these are much juicier and luscious. Pieces of ripe summer tomato are slow roasted with olive oil until their edges have a lacy golden crust and the tomatoes taste like candy.
Two condiments come out of this recipe: the tomatoes and their olive oil, which becomes a roasted tomato oil I can't resist putting on everything -- salads, bread, grilled fish, potatoes and into soups. Then again, the tomatoes together with their roasted oil are heavenly over pasta. Don't be afraid of the quantity of oil called for here. It is essential to the tomatoes' lavish flavors.
The idea for these tomatoes came from Sicilian writer Corrado Sofia who reminisces about how the women on his father's farm used to make them in the leftover heat of the bread oven after the loaves came out. This is why in this recipe you keep turning the oven down as the tomatoes bake to recreate the gradually cooling bread oven.
Cook to Cook: Use only ripe, delicious summer tomatoes like Black Krim, Brandywine, Rutgers, Chris' Ukraine, Early Cascade, Moneymaker and Purple from Tula to name a few. Do not use Roma tomatoes; they are a waste of money and an insult to your taste.
Be sure to "ripen" the roasted tomatoes at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours before eating. Store them covered in the refrigerator up to 6 days. They freeze beautifully for three months -- and sometimes taste even better for it.
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Core tomatoes and halve vertically. Do not seed. Leave small tomatoes in halves, cut slightly larger tomatoes into 4 wedges, medium ones into 6, and large into 8. In a half sheet pan, or two 2-1/2 quart shallow metal baking pans (not glass or enameled metal), arrange tomato wedges cut side up, about 1/2 to 1-inch apart. Coat tomatoes with oil -- there should be enough to film the bottom of the pan as well. Sprinkle with salt.
2. Bake 30 minutes, then lower heat to 350 degrees and bake another 30 minutes. Turn heat to 300 degrees, and bake 30 more minutes, or until edges are slightly darkened. If edges are not yet colored, turn heat down to 250 and bake another 10 to 15 minutes. Remove tomatoes from the oven. Cool 20 minutes. Transfer them to a shallow glass or china dish and pour their oil over them. Let mellow, uncovered, at room temperature 4 to 6 hours.
3. Layer in a storage container, pouring in their oil, and refrigerate. To serve, drain off all oil from tomatoes and offer at room temperature. Taste for seasoning. Freeze tomatoes in their oil in sealed plastic containers up to 3 months.
"It's sort of a funny thing for me to say as a restaurant chef, but my advice to my sons and to everyone is to cook at home at least most of the time," says chef Cal Peternell, author of Twelve Recipes.