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Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

October 19, 2009
by Elizabeth

Roasted

Confession: I don’t like raw tomatoes. At all. I know what you’re thinking…how can someone, especially someone who loves food, not appreciate the simple, yet exquisite beauty and flavor of a late summer tomato? Oh, the horror! Well, for one, they’re slimy. It’s a consistency issue mostly. But also I think it’s the result of most tomatoes being bland and mealy, and actually lacking the flavor that so many people rave about.

petite tomatoes

I’ve always loved tomato sauce and tomato soup, and of course being from Texas, salsa, but I have never been able to enjoy a raw tomato. When I was little, my grandparents kept me during the summer days while my mom worked. After he retired, Grandpa picked up gardening and they converted their urban backyard into a garden with row after row of raised beds. Granny and Grandpa taught me how to tell when the vegetables were ready to be picked, how to lovingly tend to the marigolds and pinks, which bugs were good garden helpers and which caterpillars were poisonous. They had tomatoes, squash and zucchini, green beans, even corn one year. Cucumbers were my favorite and nearly every day after we gathered the vegetables, Granny and I would slice a cucumber, sprinkle it with salt and devour it immediately. I’m pretty sure I ate the other vegetables too, but I absolutely refused the tomatoes. Which of course troubled my grandparents greatly. They couldn’t understand why I didn’t love Grandpa’s tomatoes. So Granny would try to coerce or trick me into trying them, to no avail, and eventually one summer when I was about seven, she decided that enough was enough and I had to learn to like them. She actually declared that I couldn’t have her freshly baked chocolate chip cookies after lunch unless I ate three cherry tomatoes with my grilled cheese. This was of course very traumatic for a doted-upon only grandchild, and I tried for a few days. But then guess what I did? I gave up the cookies. The tomatoes were THAT BAD.

Sliced

This hatred continued until I was an adult. After college I started teaching myself to cook and it became harder and harder to avoid recipes calling for tomatoes. Besides, I knew I liked the flavor of tomatoes, I just needed to make an effort to get over this insanity. So I started ordering sun dried tomatoes on my pizza, stopped obsessively picking the tiny tomato dices out of guacamole and chili and salads, and even cooked with them.  I still don’t enjoy plain, raw tomatoes, but when I discovered these oven roasted tomatoes, I finally understood what all the tomato hullabaloo was about. These were divine! So full of FLAVOR! So gloriously TOMATO-Y!

Dressed

These roasted tomatoes are not baked long enough to achieve the texture of sun-dried tomatoes. They aren’t dry at all, in fact you can almost spread them like a paste. They are little tomato jewels, bursting with a rich, deep flavor. Slightly sweet, but they maintain an acidic bite. I like to bake mine to the point where they are wrinkled and just starting to darken around the edges, still a little squishy but cooked long enough so that the juices have concentrated and thickened.

Tomatoes close up

I’ve tried a few recipes and variations, but it’s really just a general process, no need to be exact with these. Mine are adapted from the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe in Back to Basics (which I adore, by the way). I like using cherry tomatoes best (they have less slime, which I’m not over yet, and are so cute), but you can certainly use any kind of tomatoes you want, you’d just have to adjust the cooking time. The great thing is you don’t even have to use peak of season, heirloom, only available at the market tomatoes since roasting them brings out all of the inherently wonderful flavors. Go ahead, buy the cherry tomatoes in the plastic carton at Tom Thumb, even in December. They’ll still be fabulous!

done

My favorite way to eat these is with aged goat cheese and a baguette, but they’re also ridiculously good on pizzas and tarts, in salads, sandwiches, and a quick pasta sauce. Try a “caprese” salad with little cubes of fresh mozzarella and basil. Or you can eat them right out of the oven if you want to get straight to the point.

Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
adapted from the Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics

One carton of cherry tomatoes, red or yellow
2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2 finely minced garlic cloves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half lengthwise, squeezing out some of the seeds from the larger, juicy ones. Place tomatoes on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and sugar. Toss to coat thoroughly. Arrange tomatoes so that they are in a single layer, cut side up. Sprinkle minced garlic all over, trying to keep it on top of the tomatoes. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Enjoy however your heart desires!

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