Monday, October 5, 2009

Heaven On Toast

I'm baaaaaaaack -- ready or not! Although I've been absent from this particular cyber real estate for a bit, I have certainly not been idle. There was a good visit with out-of-state families and, between then and now, lots of experimentation with the Silver Streak.

That would be the new KitchenAid food processor, of course. The KitchenAid stand mixer is otherwise known as the Blue Beast. Together they make a fantastic kitchen team, I kid you not. Happily, I can report the Silver Streak has handled everything I've thrown at it and handled it well. Even when I screw up, the Streak doesn't. Can't ask for more than that, can you?

Today isn't about kitchen tools, however. Today is about an absolutely fantastic way to enjoy the season's bounty of freshly ripe tomatoes. REAL tomatoes, thank you very much, not the cardboard imitations picked too early for flavor. Last week Patti and Roger gifted me with some from their garden. They couldn't remember what kind these were but they are a very meaty tomato and intensely flavorful.

And I know a way to make even more flavor pop out.

Tip: I can't scientifically vouch for this but, while Google-cruising for 'mater recipes, I found several references that swear tomatoes keep longer if you store them with the stem end down. Well, it can't hurt.

Have you ever roasted fresh tomatoes? I hadn't. Not until today, anyway. I'm here to tell you, there is absolutely nothing like the flavor of roasted 'maters. Nothing. The beauty of it is, this is a really easy way to fix them. Plus, once they've been roasted, there are a kajillion ways you can go with them for future use. That's assuming you haven't lost your head and gobbled them up right from the oven. All too easy to do, I assure you. If you feel shaky about your self control, get lots of 'maters for roasting. (By the way, I'm told smaller batches can be roasted in toaster ovens. I imagine the same would hold true of countertop roaster ovens.)

I only had three left from the ones the kids gave me so I used the enamel-clad cast iron baking dish for the job. You can use larger pans or cookie sheets if you have more 'maters. I sprayed the bottom of the dish with a light coating of olive oil, then laid out the sliced tomatoes. The small one was simply cut in half, the larger ones were sliced into four sections. Then I drizzled a bit of olive oil over all the slices, lightly salted them with coarse kosher salt and ground a combo-pepper mixture over them. I could have sprinkled them with minced garlic but decided to do that next time. You can sprinkle any sort of herb or seasoning over them that suits your fancy, by the way. This simple treatment was all I wanted to do for the maiden voyage.

I slid the pan into a 275 degree fairy height oven. That was a compromise temp, as I've seen suggestions for anything from 200 degrees to 450 degrees. I can't vouch for the accuracy of my particular oven but the temp I chose seemed to work just fine. The photo above shows what the tomatoes looked like after one hour. They're starting to shrink and the glorious process of caramelization is just beginning. Oh frabjous joy, if I may slightly paraphrase the Jabberwocky.

After two hours, the above looked to me to be exactly right. I didn't want them dried out but I did want them imbued with that rich smokey flavor you get from the caramelized bits. I popped one of the smaller pieces in my eager mouth just as soon as it was barely cooled enough to avoid pain. Oh my stars and garters! The extra depth of flavor will just knock you out, I'm not kidding.

Now, there are any number of things one can do with the 'maters at this point. For one thing, you can flash freeze them so they'll be available all winter and you can sneer at the cardboard tomatoes.

Tip: I always thought "flash freezing" meant food was frozen really fast. As the term is used in this sense, however, it means you lay out the food on a cookie sheet or platter, each piece separate from the next, and put them in the freezer for a couple or three hours. Now you take the frozen bits and throw them in freezer bags or containers and put back in the freezer. That way, you can always remove just the amount you need without having to thaw the whole package.

The roasted tomatoes can be used "as is" in pretty much anything to which you'd add regular tomatoes -- except now you have the flavor bonus. Soups, stews, breads, pureed with broth or juice for various tomato sauces (marinara, spaghetti, pizza, etc.) -- whatever lights your candle. What I did this time was one of those experiments that actually worked out like I knew what I was doing. Believe me, nobody could have been more surprised than me.

What I did, was, I scooped up the roasted tomatoes and plopped them in the mini-bowl for the Silver Streak. (Small food choppers or blenders will work just fine, too.) Then I poured a bit of decent Australian Shiraz into the baking dish to deglaze the pan -- which I set on medium heat on top of the stove. Using a silicone spatula, I carefully loosened all those caramelized bits and kept stirring them into the wine as it cooked down to about half. I think I ended up with about a quarter cup of liquid. (You can use fruit juice or chicken broth or even plain water to deglaze if you want.)

Then I poured the slightly thickened liquid into the bowl with the tomatoes and processed everything until I had a thick puree. Maybe 30 seconds? Now comes the reward part -- I toasted a slice of oatmeal bread (because that's what I had but any kind of bread will work) and spread it with some of the yogurt cheese I had made up. (Also known as Greek yogurt. Or you can use cream cheese.) On top of the cheese, I spread a layer of the roasted 'mater "jam."

This is what it looked like, just before I took the first dainty bite. And then the second, larger bite. And then the rapid wolf-down, complete with snarling and yipping. I didn't take any pictures of that latter. It wouldn't have been seemly.

So now you can raid your garden -- or hit the local Farmer's Market or roadside stand or just beg and snivel to a gardening neighbor -- and roast up your own Heaven On Toast. I'm just saying . . .


Bex said...

The 1st time we had roasted tomatoes was whilst staying at our first B&B on our honeymoon in England. Newbury, England, to be exact. With Mr. and Mrs. Berry. How I remember that I'll never know, it was 23 years ago. But they serve halved roasted tomatoes just like in your picture with the full English breakfast and we loved them so much that I've been making them quite often, a little olive oil and herbs and spices on top and they are great with almost anything.

kate et jim said...

Now that's just not right - you've gone and made me jealous, Dee. AND hungry.

I'll have you know - I did use my KitchenAid today - ground up all my fresh garlic, spooned it into pint baggies and froze 12 bags. Ta Da.

Boy oh boy - I could eat that last photo!

Wendy said...

Oh, my goodness. The weather here is going to be perfect this week to get late-season tomatoes (I hope!) but cool enough to run the oven. I can see lots of roasted 'maters in our future. Thanks, Dee!

Dee said...

Ah, Bex, you've got it! Isn't that flavor amazing? Definitely worth the use of the oven, no matter what the weather. Although, around here, it's chilly enough in the morning now that the oven warmth is mighty welcome.

Kate, I knew you'd love this one. And you're still getting great 'maters out of your own garden, aren't you? We've already established that you are the Garlic Goddess. (grin)

Wendy, go for it, darlin'. You won't regret it, I promise.

The Old Guy said...

Dee, your tomato creation is so special I feel moved to share my own recipe with you. Well, chicken actually. Kinda. At least it started out that way.

Dee said...

Oh my. Bill, I promise, I'm laughing WITH you, not AT you. I've done that kind of thing my own self far too many times to make fun of someone else. Thanks for sharing.

John Bailey said...

We're at the height of the tomato season here, too. Roasting tomatoes is the way to go!

bonnie said...

Must remember to go turn the tomatoes on the top of the microwave stem down.

I still say you should be a chef somewhere.

Maggie said...

I roast all the other veggies, why not tomatoes. And now nice to see you. I've missed ya.

kate et jim said...

No Dee - lost all our tomato plants to the blight this year. *sigh*. The peppers are doing fantastic though, lots of varieties.