“Roasted” is another word in the vast culinary lexicon that grabs my attention. Not the harsh sort of grab you recognize as the drunk bro at the end of the bar; “Roasted” is seductive about the way it stops you in your tracks. When something has been roasted, you know there was forethought. No one ever “whips up a batch of roast vegetables”. You put your baking sheet full of goodies into the oven for an extended period of time, knowing it will be making sweet, sweet love to this kitchen apparatus.
I’m telling you, “roasted” just has that sort of effect on
I remember the first time my Auntie Paula oven-roasted tomatoes (she’s Australian, so for the rest of this post, I encourage you to read the word as tomahtoes). She had left them on the stove to cool and I just stared at them. The tomatoes (tomahtoes, remember) had dutifully shrunk in the oven, but were a deep, rich shade of red and coated in olive oil, each bearing a sliver or two of golden garlic. In the time they had spent in the oven, the flavor of the tomatoes had deepened, enriched further by a strong garlic essence.
Have I mentioned how much I love garlic? These babies didn’t stand a chance.
Since our first introduction, oven-roasted tomatoes have become a go-to plate for dinner parties. Everyone oohs and aahs, but they look so much more involved than they actually are. Take the time to try and make these at least once. You’ll be glad you did.
Mise en place is particularly important here. You’ll have oily, tomato-y hands sooner than you realize and that is NOT the opportune moment to be digging through the pantry for foil. About 4lbs of plum tomatoes will give you enough to fill one baking sheet. You’ll want one head of garlic to go with said quantity of tomato. When selecting a spoon to use, it’s best to use one that is serrated, like a grapefruit spoon, or one with a pointy tip, like an espresso spoon. This will help tremendously when you’re scooping the seeds/pulp from the tomatoes.
When halving a tomato, stand it on its flat end (word on the street is that it’s called the sepal, but I don’t pretend to be a horticulturist) and pinch the top between your fingers. Feel for the two flatter sides and then cut directly across the tomato, from 12 to 6 o’clock. This will make it easier to scoop out the innards. Try to avoid removing all the pulp, though – that’s the good part! It’s those bitter seeds you want to get rid of.
Salt and pepper is a good base point when it comes to seasoning, but feel free to get creative. Sometimes we use thyme, za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice blend), or oregano.
You’ll want to lick your hands at this point. Resist the urge. Resist.
Be sure to give the tomato halves about a half inch of space between them. They’re meant to be roasting, not taking a steambath.
There’s no use trying to illustrate the final product, they’re just too beautiful for my color pencil handiwork. It will be challenging, but let these cool before eating. A burnt tongue/roof-of-mouth is the worst – it takes forever to heal and you can’t taste anything in the meantime. Whatever survivors remain can be refrigerated in a closed container. We usually eat these directly off the tray (sorry, Auntie Paula). We put them on toast. We’ve made them integral parts of egg sandwiches. Toss them in a blender with some roast fennel and I’ll bet you’re thinking what I’m thinking – tomato sauce. There are few parties these beauties can’t be invited to.