Saturday, February 12, 2011

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes with Fresh Oregano, Basil, Lemon and Garlic

I had a day off yesterday; my days off are usually spent running errands and catching up on things I don't have time to do on days I'm working.  But yesterday I spent nearly all day at home, aside from running to the grocery store to pick up items for this lovely dish.

It's been so long since I've updated this blog (nearly six months!), but yesterday I finally felt like browsing the internet for an interesting recipe and spending the day bringing it to fruition.  I spent quite a while picking out something to make.  I'd had my heart set on red-wine braised beef short ribs, but since my pregnant sister was coming to dinner, I decided that wine-braised meat might not be the best idea, even if most of the alcohol cooks off (congratulations Priscilla!!!).

I stumbled upon this recipe, and was intrigued by the use of fresh oregano, as well as by the concept of slow-roasting tomatoes, which is something I'd always wanted to try.

The recipe calls for six plum tomatoes (about a pound), but after reading comments about the recipe (everyone seemed to share the sentiment that the tomatoes were outrageously good), I decided to double the amount.

I usually avoid buying tomatoes at the grocery store, unless I'm buying grape tomatoes for a salad, because especially in the dead of winter, they just look so awful.  Even when I was buying the plum tomatoes for this recipe, knowing I was going to slather them with olive oil, a bit of sugar, and spices, I have to admit I was looking at them rather doubtfully.  They were a shade I wouldn't even classify as red, and their flesh was not yielding at all.

The preparation was pretty just wash the tomatoes, dry them, cut them in half, toss them with 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar, a teaspoon of salt, and a half teaspoon of pepper.  Then you prepare the cooking oil, heating together 2/3 cup of olive oil, 4 cloves of garlic (the recipe says finely chopped, but I grated them because my knife skills leave much to be desired and I hate trying to finely chop tiny little cloves of garlic), 20 torn basil leaves, and 24 fresh oregano leaves.  You pour this fragrant oil over the tomatoes, which have been prettily arranged cut-side down on a shallow baking sheet, and bake for 2 1/2 hours at 250 degrees.

In the oven, the flavors reduce and concentrate, and the tomatoes become wonderfully shriveled and a much more deep, intense red.  When they're finished baking, you lift them onto a plate, strain the oil in which they were baking, and add to it three more tablespoons of fresh, chopped oregano, two tablespoons of lemon juice, two teaspoons of grated lemon zest, and a bit more salt and pepper, to taste.  You can then pour the oil back over the tomatoes and also over whichever meat you choose to serve with them--I went with the recipe and chose salmon.  I think you could also use grilled chicken with great results.  They'd even be great atop salad greens with a sprinkling of feta cheese.

Anyway, I thought the tomatoes were fantastic.  They were no longer the dubious-looking tomatoes I had seen in the grocery store, but were instead soft, wrinkly, bright, intensely-flavored morsels.


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