Late Summer is Tomato Time
People are talking about fall. But it is not fall in Los Angeles. Not by a long shot. I know this because in gardens up and down my street, tomato plants continue to produce a riot of unmatched end-of-summer color.
With a glorious profusion of red, yellow, and white currant tomatoes, as tiny as your pinkie fingernail, to the slightly larger grape tomatoes, right up to two pound beauties like Gold Medal and Mortgage Lifters of all stripe, the plants continue to produce with remarkable abandon. But the question persists. What to do with all these tomatoes?
You can follow the lead of Italians everywhere, who at this time of year are “putting up” enough passata di pomodoro (tomato puree), pomodori pelati (peeled tomatoes), or ready to use tomato sauce (family recipe, of course) to last until summer comes again. Check out my Italian friends Frank Fariello of Memorie di Angelina and Michelle Capobianco of Majella Home Cooking for their lessons on putting up tomatoes. But the truth is you’re still going to have tomatoes left over. A few weeks ago I wrote an article for L’Italo-Americano newspaper called “The Tomatoes of August – Put Them Up or Put Them in the Oven!” I thought I’d reprise the recipes here, for those last holdouts of the summer orto (garden.)
Late summer is tomato time, and one of the best ways to enjoy the tomato garden’s bounty is to roast these beauties. Tossed with olive oil, dappled with salt, pepper and herbs or even sweetened with sugar, and roasted in a fast oven, the tomatoes are transformed. The oven’s dry heat brings out the best in tomatoes, drawing out the water, caramelizing them and bringing their sweetness into particularly tight focus, distilling more flavor than you ever thought possible into every single glorious orb of summer.
Serve roasted tomatoes any way you want. Click here to see them paired with Abruzzo’s classic long pasta, maccheroni alla chitarra. Add a few to a salad, or atop ricotta crostini for an antipasto. Try Roasted Tomatoes with Burrata. The freshly pulled, milky cheese, or pasta filata, is formed into pouches and filled with voluptuous cream and soft pieces of cheese known as ritagli, or rags. The soft cheese is the perfect match for the flavor of the tomatoes, soft and still warm from the oven. Served with garlic-rubbed crostini and basil leaves, this will have your guests asking how you worked the magic.
Perhaps the sweetest tomatoes of all, and surely one of the most prolific of plants, are Sun Golds. The plants reach a height of over six feet, and give forth tiny, extremely sweet, golden cherry-type tomatoes. Food writer Julia della Croce of Forktales roasts Sun Golds with extra virgin olive oil and oregano and then tosses them with pasta, more extra virgin olive oil, and ricotta salata. The Sun Golds blister and soften during their roasting time, and their flavor deepens and intensifies. This preparation, so elegant in its simplicity, is Italian home cooking alla della Croce at its best, and a perfect way to use those garden holdouts.
Roasted Tomatoes with Burrata
About 1 pound of tomatoes
8 ounces Burrata
Salt and pepper
Italian bread, cut in ½-inch thick slices
Garlic clove, cut in half lengthwise, optional
Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Rinse and dry the tomatoes, leaving them on the vine, if possible. Place the tomatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet and coat with oil, salt, and pepper. Roast on the middle rack until the skin wrinkles and the tomatoes begin to soften, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven.
While the tomatoes roast, make the crostini. Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium heat. Toast both sides of the sliced bread until golden and well marked. Remove the bread and rub the cut side of the garlic over one side of the toasted bread. Drizzle the garlic coated side of the bread with extra virgin olive oil. Set aside, oil side up.
Arrange the roasted tomatoes, burrata, crostini (oiled side up), and basil leaves on a plate. Serve.
On to dessert. Yes, I said dessert. Lose the savory flavorings, and roast the tomatoes with a delicate olive oil and plenty of granulated sugar. The tomatoes emerge from the oven almost candied, delightfully rich, a tasty match for vanilla gelato. With small pieces of mint or tiny sprigs of basil, this is a real change of pace for dessert.
Roasted Tomatoes with Vanilla Gelato
Vanilla Gelato (recipe follows)
1 cup mixed small tomatoes, rinsed and dried
¼ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Mint or basil leaves
makes 1 scant quart
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla paste)
4 large egg yolks
Pinch sea salt
Make the gelato: heat milk, cream, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, and salt in a medium saucepan until small bubbles form around the edges, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside to steep for 20 minutes. In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks until lightened. Reheat the milk mixture until small bubbles form again. Slowly pour half the hot milk mixture into the yolks, beating constantly. Return the egg and milk mixture to the saucepan and heat over a medium flame, stirring constantly, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan until the mixture reaches 180 degrees F. or until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and strain, discarding the vanilla bean. Cool over an ice bath, and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Churn in an ice cream maker or gelato machine according to manufacturer’s directions. Freeze 2 hours or overnight before serving.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the tomatoes with sugar and oil on a foil lined baking sheet. Roast on middle rack for about 15 minutes, until softened.
Arrange the tomatoes in the bottom of each of 4 serving bowls. Place a scoop of gelato atop the tomatoes and sprinkle with mint or basil leaves. Serve at once.
Note: You can click on any picture and see a slide show!
I have no affiliation with any product, manufacturer, or site mentioned in this article.