Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I finally got it right: slow roasted tomatoes

I am a relative newcomer to the world of food blogging; this site has only been maintained for six months or so. But loooong before I started a blog of my own, I was reading and reading and reading other blogs. When I found one I liked, I started at the beginning of their archives and read every single post. It was tough, since it was midwinter when I stumbled across the first one, and I went through the seasons in a week with these talented writers and their incredibly evocative words. I would crave off-season items like peaches and asparagus in January. But there was one item that stuck with me hard. I waited patiently through spring (mm, asparagus!) and early summer (hello beautiful lettuce), and then July (peaches! yes!) and then it was finally (finally!) upon us: tomato season.

Now, there is no need to convince me of how delicious a tomato IS. But when I read the posts about how delicious a tomato can BE? Well I was smitten. Various blogs recommend between 6 and 12 hours of roasting, but I'm not always at my house on the weekends and I can't leave the oven on while I go to work, so I started small. For my first attempt (I teased you with a photo here) I used grape tomatoes roasted for 3 hours at 200 degrees. I can do that in the time between work and bed. They were delicious. I had them in pasta with fresh pesto.

But what I really lusted after was the roasted Roma tomato I had first read about on Orangette. At the last farmer's market of August I finally found some plum tomatoes and I took them home, excited because I had found a solution to my time crunch: I would roast them overnight! I sliced and drizzled and sprinkled and put them in the oven at 8:30pm on 200 degrees. When I got up at 6:30 to take them out, excited for my 10 hour slow roasted delicious beauties, this is what greeted me:

Sigh. Really not even edible and CERTAINLY not delicious. I am getting to know my new oven, and 10 hours at 200 was just too much for the ol' girl.

I couldn't come up with any way to salvage them and so, ashamed and disappointed, I threw them away. The next Monday (just a few days ago, actually) I tried again, this time with grocery store tomatoes I probably wouldn't have eaten in a salad: they were overripe and several were bruised. I had heard this method would salvage even a questionable tomato, so I pressed on. I sliced, drizzled and dusted and this time I used a glass baking dish instead of my old warped cookie sheet. I popped them in the oven at 10:30 pm on the lowest possible temp - 170 degrees. When I woke up at 6:30 (8 hours later), this is what I had:

Exactly what I was looking so forward to! You know, basically angels singing in tomato format. And the garlic cloves? Hoooo, boy. Hugh declared that one tomato tasted like an entire bowl of tomato sauce in a bite. I agree, and I STRONGLY encourage you to try this, particularly if you come across inexpensive tomatoes or are lucky enough to have a very productive garden.

As you can see, experimentation is important, but here is a run down of my successful method:

Slow-roasted tomatoes

Roma (plum) tomatoes
Olive Oil
Fresh Garlic
Optional: fresh or dried herbs such as thyme, or an Italian herb blend

Slice the tomatoes in half along the axis (the long way). Pour a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a baking dish, and arrange the tomatoes cut side up in the dish. Intersperse unpeeled cloves of garlic. Sprinkle very lightly with kosher or sea salt and, also lightly, with the herb or seasoning blend of your choice. You don't need a ton of seasoning since everything gets so concentrated after all that time in the oven. Drizzle with more olive oil, making sure each tomato gets a little splash. Place in the oven, and turn the oven to its lowest setting (mine is 170F). Go to bed... or just leave the tomatoes alone for 8-12 hours. Check at 8 and if need be, give them some more time.

After eating about half the tomatoes, I used a few for this delicious savory muffin recipe from Heidi at 101 cookbooks - you should definitely check it out; it's my favorite muffin.

If I haven't convinced you to try this before the weather cools off (you can freeze them for tomato-ey deliciousness in January!), more slow roasted tomato goodness can be found in the following places:

The Wednesday Chef makes Molly Wizenberg's slow-roasted tomatoes

Molly Wizenberg makes Molly Wizenberg's slow-roasted tomatoes

Kalyn of Kalyn's kitchen gives a tutorial of her method

Deb of Smitten Kitchen uses cherry tomatoes

Lydia of the Perfect Pantry uses them for bruschetta

Alanna of Kitchen Parade makes fifteen batches


  1. This is some major tomato dedication. I appreciate the sort of scientific-method approach.

    I actually have a giant container of grape tomatoes that might be destined for slow roasting. I've been interested ever since I first saw Kalyn talk about it.

  2. These pictures are great! I really love roasted tomatoes and I always thought they were something only a culinary genius could prepare properly- but now you've given me hope with this simple recipe!! I also appreciate the tips on what not to do. thanks!

  3. Wow, thanks! I was looking forward to this recipe... I'll let you know how it goes for me.