There are few things as evocative of summer as tomatoes, picked fresh from the vine in your backyard, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with basil and salt. And there are also few things as daunting as coming up with enough ways to use those fresh-picked tomatoes. Really, how many days in a row can you make a cucumber and tomato salad before you just want some macaroni and cheese?
A couple summers ago I came across a recipe in Bon Appetit by Molly Wizenberg that I've been making regularly ever since - Pomodori al Forno. I read the recipe, thought of that big bowl of garden-fresh tomatoes in my kitchen, and turned on the oven despite the summer heat.
Rough chop these tomatoes and toss them with hot pasta, parmesan, and spinach, or spread them on a crusty baguette. They will melt into the bread and it will soak up all the lovely olive oil and garlic the tomatoes have taken on. I could also see these tomatoes folded into a fish or chicken en papillote, turkey sandwiches, a cheese plate...
Oh, and this is important--don't leave any of that olive oil on the roasting pan, it's liquid gold. Grab some bread, fare la scarpetta and make that a meal in itself.
Pomodori al Forno
adapted from Molly Wizenberg, from Cafe Lago in Seattle*
8 Roma tomatoes or 28 oz canned whole tomatoes
1/2 cup or so olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
a pinch of sugar
a teaspoon of salt
several grinds of black pepper
4 or 5 crushed garlic cloves
Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze or scoop out the seeds. Set them cut side up on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt, pepper, sugar and dried oregano. Sprinkle the garlic evenly, avoiding getting too much on the baking sheet (to prevent burning). Drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil, making sure that all the tomatoes are nicely coated. Cook at 300º for about an hour or so until the tomatoes are very soft. Cook longer if you really want to concentrate the flavor, cook less if you want more juicy tomatoes.
*My version isn't an exact duplicate of the original recipe, and is different every time. Go ahead and adjust the amounts as you wish, just as I do. Add crushed red peppers, anchovies, tarragon, whatever. Go crazy.