I’m going to interrupt my cherry triathlon for an important broadcast. Unfortunately, like a weather report that invariably forecasts rain on the weekend, it is not something you’re going to like. Because I’m going to ask you to please turn on your ovens. In summer. For 3 hours. Before you click over to something more interesting or sane like a no-cooking-required side with grilled fish or a simple salad, please hear me out. Because these tomatoes are that good. Because these tomatoes taste like they’ve died and gone to heaven. Because these tomatoes are the be-all and end-all of cooked tomatoes anywhere. Are you still reading? Good.
Apart from the inconvenience I have already mentioned, there is not much else involved as far as preparation goes. You quarter meaty tomatoes like Roma (or even plum), scoop out the juice and seeds, toss them with salt, pepper and olive oil in a large baking dish, dump the same in a hot oven and forget about it for the next 3 hours. Go and watch a movie. Or read a good book. Or take a walk in the park. And come back to a kitchen simmering with the heady aroma of slow-roasted tomatoes. They will have shriveled up to one third their size, with skin like a wrinkled prune. But on tomatoes, this is attractive, because they promise a concentration of flavor, a caramelized sweetness and a smoky earthiness that is the gift of slow roasting. Pop one in your mouth and the promise will be delivered.
While I could eat these just the way are, they lend themselves beautifully to a number of preparations. Match them up with your favorite herbs, some more olive oil and add them to your salad greens, toss them with some fresh pasta or add them to your favorite sandwich. Serve them as as side or make them the showpiece of a gorgeous summer lunch like I did with this tomato tart.
I prepared a fresh pesto with basil, arugula, cilantro, walnuts, mozzarella and strawberries (yes, that’s not a typo). I wanted something to add just a hint of sweetness to the pesto – you know, gone before you can catch hold of it. My eyes fell on the strawberries (which I can’t stop buying) and wondered if that would work. I Googled it and Clotilde of the lovely Chocolate & Zucchini had done it before, so I ran with it. And it works, beautifully.
Both the tomatoes and pesto can be made ahead of time. I used a good store-bought puff pastry and this came together in a snap but if you’re inclined to make your own, I wholeheartedly support you. The puff pastry provides a wonderfully flaky casing, and the tomatoes are layered with the pesto and thick slices of fresh mozzarella. Into the oven they go again, baked this time till the pastry is golden and the cheese is bubbling. You can make these into rustic, free-form galettes or in a tart pan. Either way, all you’ll long for is some chilled wine and a picnic.
Slow Roasted Tomato Galettes
(This little recipe of mine is also an Editors’ Pick at Food52!)
Recipe idea nod to Clotilde of Chocolate & Zucchini for the Strawberries in Pesto and Slow Roasted Tomatoes
For the tomatoes:
8 ripe tomatoes, preferably roma or plum
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the pesto:
(You can use an equal quantity of the herbs of your choice)
1 cup fresh basil, tightly packed
1/2 cup arugula, tightly packed
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, tightly packed
3 tablespoons walnuts
5 small strawberries
1 ounce fresh mozzarella, grated or roughly torn to small bits
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt, to taste
For the galettes:
2 10×10 inch sheets butter puff pastry, store-bought or homemade as you prefer
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into thick slices
Roast the tomatoes:
1. Preheat the oven to 200⁰F.
2. Cut off the stem-end of the tomatoes and slice them in half length-wise. Scoop out the seeds, juice and the stem, if it is tough. Gently toss the tomatoes with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Place tomatoes on a baking sheet, cut side up. Bake in the preheated oven for 3 1/2 hours.
Make the pesto:
1. Roughly chop the basil, arugula and cilantro leaves in a food processor. Add the walnuts, strawberries and mozzarella and process. Drizzle the olive oil slowly and process to a smooth paste. Season with salt.
Make the galettes:
1. Preheat the oven to 350⁰F (175⁰C).
2. Roll out the puff-pastry into 2 10-inch rounds. Place on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Spread a layer of pesto (about 2 tablespoons) on the pastry, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border. (You’ll have pesto left over.) Layer 8 tomato halves on each pastry round followed by slices of mozzarella. Fold the border over the filling, pleating the edges.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 mins until the pastry is golden.
The tomatoes and pesto can be made ahead. Stored in an airtight container in the fridge, they will keep for several days. They are also good over grilled bread or pasta.