Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
It seems like every year around this time I am writing something about tomatoes. It might have something to do with the fact that it is the peak of tomato season, and I am usually inundated with tomatoes from friends and neighbors who grow them. In fact, I was so successful in cultivating these relationships that I was able to give up growing them myself. Due to the drought, however, this year’s pickings have been slim! Because it is so dry, critters are coming out of the woodwork and devouring whole plants in my neighborhood in one sitting! The only tomatoes we have gotten so far were from our neighbors, Eric and Jensen (you may remember I wrote about the lemon cucumbers they brought me here). About the same time we got the tomatoes from our neighbors, I saw a great recipe for roasted tomatoes on one of my favorite blogs, ‘Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome’. The timing was perfect. Paul and I roasted them, just as she suggested in her blog, and it was love at first bite. Roasted tomatoes, where have you been all my life? The recipes in Elizabeth’s post were both pasta recipes. Even though some of the tomatoes we roasted eventually ended up in pasta, we enjoyed most of them on a little crostini with some cheese. This idea came about because someone had just introduced me to a new soft cheese, ‘Crescenza Stracchino’ from BelGioioso. It turns out that this cheese is perfect with the roasted tomatoes and is our new favorite combination! We could not get enough. The challenge was getting our hands on a steady stream of good tomatoes.
Sneaking into Eric and Jensen’s yard under the cover of night was starting to sound like a good idea. That would not have been very neighborly, and besides, they have a very large dog. Instead, I turned my attention to The Garden in Los Altos Hills. The Garden is owned and operated by Craig Murray, the most knowledgeable person I know when it comes to tomatoes. For years he has been growing and selling tomatoes at his stand in Los Altos Hills and local markets. Not only are they the best and tastiest tomatoes around, but he does it all naturally, without chemicals and pesticides. He starts from the ground up by enriching the soil with compost and organic fertilizers. This method creates a very healthy and nurturing environment that makes his vines naturally resistant to pests and other problems that weak havoc for other growers. Another thing that makes Craig’s tomatoes the best around is the care he takes in picking varieties that excel in flavor. Maybe you have noticed over recent years that the rise in popularity of heirloom varieties has resulted in a lot of tomatoes that look interesting but are not necessarily good. That’s probably because many growers use the same methods that large commercial growers use…farming practices that produce more tomatoes, but taste like the same “grocery store” tomatoes we’ve been complaining about for years. When you grow tomatoes for looks and highest possible yields, you sacrifice flavor. This is not the case at The Garden. So when I was ready to roast some more tomatoes, I got them from Craig or as I like to call him, The Tomato Whisperer.
Naturally, using firm, sweet, and tasty tomatoes is going to give you the best results. I like using cherry tomatoes because they seem to have more sugar and more flavor; so, I picked up a flat of mixed cherry tomatoes. When is comes to cherry tomatoes, I am a little biased in favor of Sungolds. In my opinion, you can’t get any better, so I used a hefty portion of them when I was roasting tomatoes for this post. I actually ended up roasting two pans just to make sure I had enough. I thought it would be nice to have some in the freezer for another time. I like oregano and garlic, so I made sure to add both, but you can leave it out if you prefer. Basil is great with roasted tomatoes, but don’t add it while roasting. Instead, you should add it right after they come out of the oven or right before serving your creation.
Since I started roasting tomatoes, I’ve come across and imagined many ways to use them besides on a crostini or pasta. I went over to my Pinterest page and set up a board devoted entirely to tomatoes. You can find that here. I also came up with some brilliant ideas that I am keeping to myself for now, but you will probably see some time soon on my blog or Pinterest board.
There are a couple of other things you should know when doing this recipe. You don’t need to roast your tomatoes on parchment paper, but they come out much better if you do. You can roast cherry tomatoes whole, but I think cutting them in half will give you better results. Cutting them ensures good browning and caramelization, helping to release all the sugars from the tomatoes. Another tip: if you are roasting tomatoes off-season and they aren’t as sweet as they should be, a pinch or two of sugar will help.
- 2 pounds of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- ¼ cup of good olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
- 3-4 whole cloves of fresh garlic
- Salt to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 350°.
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the tomatoes over the paper.
- Add the olive oil, oregano, and garlic and mix well, then salt to taste.
- Place the tomatoes in the oven for approximately one hour.
- Check on them halfway through, and give them a good stir (be careful opening the door as there will be a lot of steam).
- If you are roasting two pans, alternate cooking shelves halfway through.
- Remove from the oven when the edges start to brown, and most of the liquid is evaporated.
- Cool before scraping the tomatoes off the sheet and into a bowl.