Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sweetness and Blight: Honey Roasted Tomatoes

Slightly ripe plum tomatoes, ready for roasting
We were dismayed to head to the garden last week to find that our tomatoes were hit with the dreaded (and highly contagious) late blight, which destroyed the plants in a day. This is the pathogen that was responsible for the Irish potato famine--it affects both tomatoes and potatoes.  The spores of the pathogen, Phytopthora infestans, readily spread by wind and rain, so the plants must be destroyed immediately to be sure they don't spread the infection to a neighbor's crop. There is nothing to do but pull up the plants, burn them and cry.  Well, actually, there is one more thing to do:  roast the tomatoes that you can save.

We harvested the (mostly green) tomatoes that weren't yet infected and carted them inside to ripen as best they could.  These would not be the season's most delectable tomatoes, that's for sure.  After a week in a basket under some newspapers, the tomatoes turned rosy. To pump up their sweetness and flavor, I roasted them with honey, garlic and thyme--a simple but delicious way to deal with less-than-perfectly ripened tomatoes, and a nice alternative for processing tomatoes if you have a bumper crop.  You can honey roast any kind of tomato--plum, globe, cherry--and they make a great lunch meal with some crusty bread, a unique side dish, or can be pureed into a nice tomato sauce for pasta. The process is simple, and the results are good enough that these tasty tomatoes can even provide some solace for the heart break of late blight.


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Plum tomatoes after the roast
Slice tomatoes in half (larger tomatoes can be quartered if you like) and remove the seeds. Line a cookie sheet with a lip or a roasting pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease with olive oil.   Place tomatoes in the pan, skin-side down.  It's fine to crowd the pan, but there should be only one layer of tomatoes.  Tuck unpeeled cloves of garlic in and among the tomatoes (optional but very nice, especially if you plan to make pasta sauce with this)--we like garlic, so I usually use a whole head.  Tuck sprigs of fresh thyme in and among the tomatoes and garlic. Sprinkle the tomatoes generously with olive oil and then slightly less generously with honey.  Make sure every tomato has splashes of oil and drizzles of honey.  Sprinkle about 1 or 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt all over.  Roast for anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes depending on what kind of tomatoes you're roasting (cherry tomatoes will take much less time) and how caramelized you'd like them to be.  I roasted a bunch of plum tomatoes and Paul Robeson heirlooms (see photos below) for 60 minutes.  You can serve the tomatoes as is, taking care to peel the roasted garlic first, and offering lots of crusty bread on the side to sop up the juices.  Or, you can let them cool, remove the skins and whirl them and the (peeled) garlic in a blender or food processor for roasted pasta sauce.  You can also freeze the tomatoes once they cool or freeze the tomato sauce.

A NOTE ABOUT AMOUNTS:  You can roast as many or as few tomatoes as you have.  If you're roasting globe tomatoes, figure on about 1/2 per person if you're serving them as a side dish.  You might need 2 or 3 paste tomatoes (which make the best roasted tomato sauce, too) per person.  Cherry tomatoes--well, maybe 10 per person?  How hungry are you and your peeps? :)

Paul Robeson heirloom tomatoes ready for roasting

Paul Robeson heirlooms after the roast-a bit juicier than the plums!

No comments:

Post a Comment