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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Farmers' Market Fresh: Early Spring Tomatoes Roasted Whole or Sliced

Judging by the night time chill, it's still winter, Southern California style. But a walk through the local farmers' markets (the Wednesday Santa Monica and Sunday Pacific Palisades Farmers' Markets) and you'd think it was summertime. Just about everything you could want is in the market, with the exception of fresh corn and pluots.


One of my favorite recipes, and one of the easiest, uses early spring tomatoes to good advantage. Eaten raw, they aren't desirable, but roasted, they're delicious. Some farmers mark down their mottled and misshapen tomatoes so price is an added bonus.

Sliced Tomatoes Roasted with Garlic and Parsley

Use the roasted tomato slices as a side dish with grilled chicken breasts, meat, and seafood or in a salad of alternating slices of tomato and mozzarella, a variation on a classic Italian summer dish.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

2 pounds fresh large tomatoes, washed, pat dried
1 cup Italian parsley, leaves only, washed, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mix together the chopped parsley and garlic. Remove the remnants of th
e stem on top of the tomatoes, cut into 1/2" thick slices, lay on a Silpat sheet or a piece of aluminum foil on a baking tray, top with a sprinkling of parsley-garlic mix, drizzle with olive oil, and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Roast 30 minutes or until the tomatoes give off their liquid and the topping is lightly browned. Remove from the oven to cool on a baking rack. Use a rubber spatula to reserve the liquid on the baking tray.

Serve at room temperature.

Variations


Before serving, top with a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Pour the roasting liquid, a mix of seasoned olive oil and tomato essence, onto the plate, then lay the tomato slices on top.

Arrange the slices on top of filets of fish, such as sole, halibut, or swordfish.

Roasted Whole Tomatoes

Keep this recipe for the summer when tomatoes improve in quality and come down even more in price. The technique is a winner any time of the year.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 90 minutes

Ingredients

3-4 pounds tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Method


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the end of the stem at the top of the tomato. Place all the tomatoes on a Silpat sheet or a piece of aluminum foil on a shallow roasting pan. Drizzle each tomato with olive oil and season with sea salt and black pepper.

Roast 90 minutes. When you remove the tomatoes from the oven you'll notice the accumulation of a clear liquid. A small portion of that is the seasoned olive oil. But mostly the liquid is given off by the tomato itself. That liquid or, let's be bold and call it "nectar", is pure essence-of-tomato. Save every drop.

At this point the tomatoes can be served whole as a side dish with grilled or roasted meats. They can also be peeled and chopped for a pasta or a braised meat dish like short ribs. Run them through a food mill and you have the beginnings of a delicious tomato sauce.

If you don't use all the tomatoes right away, they can be placed in an air-tight container and frozen for several months without damaging their flavor.

A final tip about tomato nectar. If you like mozzarella with tomatoes but this time of year the fresh tomatoes don't have enough flavor, drizzle the tomato nectar, slightly warmed, over slices of mozzarella. You're in for a treat.