This is the season when tomatoes are at their best. If you are lucky enough to have a garden to grow your own then you know the pleasure of picking a ripe tomato off the vine and biting into it to find it is warm from the sun’s rays—bliss. It needs nothing more to make it perfect. I grow cherry tomatoes (Sweet 100s) on my deck so I can pick the ripe ones off as I see them and just pop them into my mouth. The explosion of flavor is so sweet that it’s like biting into a bonbon.
I love those vine-grown tomatoes so much that they are a part of almost every meal I eat in August. Because they are at their best, I want to capture that flavor so it is available all year long. The best way I’ve found to do that is to make tomates provencale, tomatoes that are baked in the oven.
I leave them in a 350° oven for about two hours. Most recipes for tomates provencale will tell you to add bread crumbs on top and not cook them as long. That is certainly one way to do it but it isn’t the way my family made them. The richness of the plain tomatoes that have not only cooked through but continue to dry out condenses the flavors as the natural sugars caramelize to create an intensity that I love. They are so good that as soon as they come out of the oven I can’t resist popping them into my mouth.
Use them as an accompaniment to lamb chops and roasted rosemary potatoes. Or chop them up and toss them into a salad. Add flavor to your sandwich by adding a few with smoked Gouda and black forest ham. There are so many ways to eat them that I find I always have to make more if I want to have enough to freeze.
Turning the roasted tomatoes into a paste is the best way to freeze them. It’s easy; just put them into a food processor. I freeze them in small containers and take one out when I want to use it. The paste will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks. Add a spoonful of the roasted tomato paste to flavor sauces, soups, sandwiches, and cheese spreads; let your imagination and your taste buds determine how to use it. Keep in mind that this roasted tomato paste has much more flavor than the store-bought tomato paste you’ve used to thicken your sauces. That is what makes it so exciting to use.
Note: This recipe is really simple to make. I give you as many details as I can think of to help you, so please do not be intimidated by the length of the recipe. And as with all recipes, read it through before starting; you’ll find it makes cooking so much easier.
I use a nonstick silicone baking mat such as Silpat to line the baking sheet; parchment paper or aluminum foil also work well. If you want to use the pan alone, brush a small amount of oil to help with clean up.
To add a rich tomato taste to your dishes add a spoonful to sauces, including your favorite tomato sauce, stews, soups, mix some in with dips or as a seasoning to boost the taste of a sandwich or salad dressing. You’ll discover how to use this tomato paste simply by tasting the result and trying it in new ways.
Tips on using tomatoes:
Do not refrigerate tomatoes; they will loose their flavor. That means do not buy tomatoes that have been refrigerated, they will be tasteless.
Salting tomatoes is the best way to bring out their flavor. Salt causes the juice of the tomatoes to come out giving you even more tomato flavor. Mix the juice in with your vinaigrette and sop it up with bread—so good!
What about you?
Do you love August tomatoes too?
Do you have a special way that you enjoy August’s bounty all year long?
Let me know; we’d love to hear. Join the conversation!
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Celine was a name that was synonymous with good food in my home. She was my grandmother’s cook. My mother still tells me stories about watching Celine in the kitchen. Her secret, she’d say in a hushed tone, was her sauces; sauces, she’d say with emphasis, are the secret to being a great cook. Celine didn’t . . .