To look at our weather forecast, you wouldn’t think that summer is on its way out. Yet, as much as I hate to say it (and I do — summer is my favorite time of year), it’s true. I looked out my kitchen window this morning and noticed that my garden was no longer getting a full day of sun. Yep, the sun has already started slipping lower in the sky, to the point where shadows from the large, cherry plum tree across the yard are covering large swaths of my little garden.
And yet, everything in my garden — and I do mean everything — has ripened and is ready for harvest. I’ve been out every morning, trying to keep ahead of the thieving squirrels, gathering colorful, fresh produce. I’ve been picking red-purple tomatoes, large ancho chiles, purple (now, red) jalapeños, bright-red bell peppers, and green-turning-bright-red jalapeños. I snip herbs when I need them, but they’ll keep growing, so I’m in no rush to harvest them yet. But the nightshades? That’s a different story! They’re ready NOW.
Two things struck me recently, as I was admiring the pounds of peppers and tomatoes I’ve grown this year:
- How cool it was that I had all of this gorgeous, fresh food in front of me, that I grew in my own little garden.
- Ohmygod I have all of this gorgeous, fresh food in front of me that I have to hurry up and use. Now what?!
Well, here’s what: it’s time to enjoy, cook, preserve and store! Fortunately the peppers are hardy enough to handle some cold storage until I’m ready to use them (more about my plans for the peppers in a future post). The tomatoes are a different story: the clock starts ticking as soon as those babies ripen. I’ve found that the Indigo Apples I’ve grown will keep their texture and flavor for several days while stored at room temp, but after that, they’ll soften and start to lose flavor. And no, you can’t keep them in the refrigerator. Refrigeration decreases their flavor and creates a mealy texture toute de suite, so, no cold storage for my tomatoes!
At the beginning of the summer, I had every intention of learning to can so that I could preserve my garden harvest, as well pounds of fruit from u-pick trips. Turns out, I just haven’t had time to get that project going yet, so no canned tomatoes or pasta sauce for me. And really, sauce didn’t seem like the best use of these tomatoes, which have a sweet flavor, low acidity, and somewhat meaty texture.
I’ve kinda fallen in love with the Indigo Apple. It’s a tomato that holds its own in salads, summer pastas, even with a slice of cheese and drizzle of olive oil. I decided that the best way to enjoy these beauties was to give them a long, slow oven roast. Oven roasting intensifies the flavor and makes the texture a little chewier, giving you a lot of options for use. Plus, you can store oven-roasted tomatoes in the refrigerator for about a week, or try freezing them for longer storage.
Recipe: Oven-Roasted Tomatoes
This recipe is super-simple and results in an oven-roasted tomato that you can use in so many ways: added to pastas, salads, sandwiches, or homemade pizzas. I crave them and snack on them right out of the refrigerator with just a sprinkle of sea salt!
The quick version: arrange tomato halves on an aluminum-lined sheet pan; season with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a tiny sprinkle of sugar; roast at a low temperature for about 3 hours. (Want to add more flavor? Drizzle on some balsamic vinegar, add herbs, or sprinkle with minced garlic before roasting.)
Rimmed, sheet pan (at least 1″ deep)
Extra-virgin olive oil
- Wash and dry the tomatoes to remove any dust, pollen, or dirt.
- Preheat the oven to 275°F.
- Line the sheet pan with two layers of aluminum foil, making sure to cover the sides of the pan.
- Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally and arrange them, cut side up, on the prepared sheet pan.
Cutting the tomatoes horizontally means they’ll rock and roll a bit less on the sheet pan than tomatoes cut vertically (through the stem).
- Drizzle olive oil over each tomato half, then season to taste with salt, pepper, and a tiny sprinkle of sugar.
I used freshly ground sea salt and black pepper, plus a little fine white sugar. Adding a little sugar brings out the tomatoes’ sweetness and promotes some caramelization during the roasting process. Next time I’ll try raw sugar!
- Place in the oven and roast for about 3 hours, turning the sheet pan every 45 minutes or so for even cooking.
Just to give you an idea of what to expect after 1½ hours:
You can see that the tomatoes have darkened around the edges and started to deflate, but they’re still juicy. After 3 hours in the oven, the tomatoes are deflated/sunken, caramelized, and dark-red in color. Delicious!
Want an even chewier version? Keep roasting for another 30 minutes.
- After roasting, cool on the sheet pan. Store in refrigerator in a covered container for up to a week (if they last that long!) or freeze.