Sweet Tomato Follow-through.


tomatoesWhile I’ve always got a bee in my bonnet about something or other, it is rare that I get a bee in my bonnet and actually DO something about it.  On my internet meanderings, I came upon a recipe for slow roasted tomatoes – so slow, in fact, that they roast for twelve hours – overnight.  The idea appealed to me immensely because I love tomatoes and a lot of my cooking, especially as the weather cools, happens to be tomato-based (chili, stews, sauces, etc.)  Furthermore, I love the idea of killing as many birds as possible with one stone and with this recipe, I would be able to sleep and cook at the same time.  Multitasking whore that I am, what could be better?  And finally, you’ve undoubtedly heard me bemoaning my non-summer and with it, my less than satisfactory farmers market attendance.  Not enough summer = not enough farmers markets = not enough tomato consumption.  

I adore farmers markets.  I love that you can show up with a cool double in your pocket and walk away with bags and bags of shiny and riotously colorful loot. I always feel like Lindsay Lohan after a shopping spree in Beverly Hills – giddy and loving all the bags cutting off the circulation to my wrists, anxious to get home and spill my booty out all over the counters.  

So last week, after having dropped off all three children at school, I find myself in Target to buy an alarm clock for Saint James.  As I’m staring at the dismal produce feeling depressed and ineffectual, I hear a voice in my head . . . it sounds like Yoda, but it’s not Yoda . . . it’s my wise friend Gigi and she is saying: Don’t go to Target when you finally have some time to yourself.  I stand up a little straighter, release the wretched cucumber clutched in my hand and make a beeline for the door.  I had two hours before I needed to pick up Devil Baby.  Plenty of time to jet down to the Minneapolis Farmers Market and back. And I could get some tomatoes. 

And so I did.  

The Farmers Market on a cool, overcast Wednesday morning is so different than on a hot summer weekend.  Less vendors, less crowded, but more authentic somehow.  Gone are the sausages and lemonade – the hippy dippy dresses and scented candles.  It was down to the skeleton crew: a few ruddy faced Hmong farmers and a handful of local growers selling honey, apples, squash, and other late season bounty.  I shuffled along behind old couples who whispered conspiratorially as they shook bunches of spinach and squeezed glistening peppers with gnarled fingers.  I bought some amazing looking heirloom tomatoes:  some blood red streaked with purple, a goth tomato if ever there was one . . . some small and yellow like ampules of honey . . . some chartreuse green, as tart and sinful as Scott Weiland’s genius pants . . . the last sparkling gems of the season.  I bought two big buckets of bruised roma tomatoes for my project.  I even bought some beans from a polite Eastern European young man who began his sentence with “I must say . . .” and then told me he liked my “look.”  I don’t know what he was talking about, as I was in a puffy vest and Chucks, but hell, I’ll take my compliments where ever I can scrounge them, thank you very much, including Jacques and his beanstalk.  

As for the roasted tomatoes, you slice them in half, putting them face down on a rimmed cookie sheet drizzled in olive oil, sea salt, pepper, basil, crushed red pepper flakes, or whatever you fancy.  Drizzle more olive oil and seasonings on top and throw the whole lovely mess in the oven for twelve hours at 200 degrees.  Oh, and don’t forget to tuck some whole, unpeeled garlic cloves between the babies.  I made one batch with basil, oregano, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and one batch with just the garlic, in case I want to use it for salsa or chili.  

The results are pictured above and are, quite literally, to die for.  The wrinkly peels slip right off leaving the sweetest most concentrated tomato goodness you can imagine.  If Mother Nature laughed until she cried and her tears fell on some tomatoes which ripened and sweetened in the sun and then you took all of that and concentrated it one hundred fold, this is what it tastes like.  Smear some on a slice of baguette with goat cheese and you’ll be running with the bulls of Pamplona.  I tossed a few of the tomatoes with pasta, olive oil, goat cheese, pine nuts and basil and feasted formidably with Doctor Dash.  I’ve got the rest tucked in my freezer waiting for a snowy Sunday afternoon.  

You want summer distilled to its warmest, sweetest, earthiest essence?  Do this.

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