Thursday, September 17, 2015

Brooke Dojny: End of Summer Blues

Wait just a minute, Fall. Tomato season isn’t over yet.

Photo © Mars Vilaubi
Maine has had a prolonged run of warmer-than-usual weather this month (helping to make up for the cold, wet spring) but it can’t possibly last much longer. Here in “vacationland” (one of the state mottos), there are signs everywhere that the season is drawing down: a row of empty Adirondack chairs on a shorefront porch, shuttered cottages, a sign posted at a clam shack announcing “Closing September 20.” Fishermen continue to haul lobster traps, but sailboats vanish from the harbor as if they were erased from a picture.

Farmers’ markets still have bountiful offerings, including fall items such as pumpkins and apples, but it’s the tomatoes that I continue to covet most. They take longer to get going here on the Maine coast, but once the plants start producing there’s no stopping them, and at my CSA, tables are laden with tomatoes of all types, sizes, and hues, from juice-squirting cherry and grape tomatoes, to meaty plum tomatoes, to gigantic, misshapen (and very flavorful) heirloom varieties. My favorite method of preserving these beauties is to spread them out on baking sheets, drizzle them with olive oil, and roast them slowly, a preparation that caramelizes their sweet juices, and captures and concentrates the flavor of summer.

Plum tomatoes are the classic choice for roasting, but any type of medium-large tomato will produce a fine result. To vary the flavors, add coarsely chopped garlic or chopped basil or thyme. Roasted tomatoes are very versatile: serve them atop crackers with softened goat cheese, stir them into heated cream and toss with pasta, or add them to salads, soups, or stews.

Roasted Tomatoes

1½ to 2 pounds tomatoes
About 2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Core the tomatoes, cut into quarters, and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 
  2. Roast, stirring once or twice, until tomatoes soften, give up their juice, and begin to caramelize, about 1½ hours. Scrape into a container and refrigerate for up to five days, or freeze. 

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