Oven baked tomatoes: a dash of olive oil and 5-6 hrs at 200 degrees make sweet, crispy tomato chips out of juicy tomato slices, lovely in pasta and as a snack. Halve the tomatoes and cook at 150 for 12 hours for a sweet, chewier version yummy in salads, or in your panzanella.Once upon a time, I was a kid who hated tomatoes. Tomato sauce was okay, ketchup was great. I even slowly came around to salsa, though for years I survived on dry chips (guac didn't interest me till well into college). But that wet, slimy slice -- that interloper between my hamburger and lettuce and bun, seemed tasteless, useless and generally insulting.
I don't know when I came around, or the exact details of the conversion, but I'm quite I was spurred by my mother's coaxing and a few superb Caprese salads.
If you're lucky, you know the joy of a fresh, vine-ripened tomato. In case you don't, it looks like this:
and tastes like this:
(actually that was remnants of powdered sugar and french toast, but you get the idea)
It's become the poster-child of gardening advocates and "eat local" fanatics -- it's one of those things that really does taste better (taste at all? most tomatoes in the supermarket still seem mostly like soggy pink water) when you pick a ripe one direct from the garden.
We sold our first tomatoes back in July -- the weekend a gaggle of friends came up to visit from San Francisco, and we took a bunch of the first Stupices for a picnic on the beach with a loaf of bread, some cheese, the last of the garlic scape pesto, leftover spicy scones from breakfast, and a bag of luscious cherries.
The tomatoes were exclaimed over, praised, and gobbled down; we expressed our regret at not bringing more. Then we went about our business hunting cockles in the low tide and headed home to use the rest of our tomato stash in a 4-pan paella masterpiece (only two of four shown below :) )
Since then, I've been continuing to enjoy the tomato harvest: on the grill, in salads, in pasta, and yes, though I never would have believed it had you told me as a child, sometimes bitten whole, like an apple, as a snack before dinner.
But one of my favorite dinners has been a simple panzanella, or simply said: hastily concocted bread and tomato salad.
Panzanella from forgotten ingredients, inspired by tomatoes
- One stale crusty loaf of rosemary hearth bread from the local bakery -- at least 10 days old, abandoned on a lower shelf.
- Two beautiful red tomatoes with bright yellow crowns
- A forlorn chunk of sharp cheddar (or some very thin slices of Parmesan or hunks of fresh mozzarella would do)
- some browning sprigs of basil, rescued from the farmer's market leftovers
- olive oil and balsamic vinegar
- a dash of salt
The next night, I repeated the dish with the remaining bread and added in some sweet dried tomatoes straight from the oven.
There's something so happy and so sensual about tomatoes in late summer. Thank you Pablo Neruda for putting the words in my mouth.