Monday, March 19, 2012

Last of the Winter (Slow Roasted Tomatoes with Pasta)

My parents have gardened for as long as I can remember. Even as we moved all over the US, whether our yard was large or small, it was always heavily cultivated for flowers, herbs, and vegetables. While my mother subscribed to copious magazines, toted a dog-eared copy of The Border in Bloom seemingly at all times, and directed our aesthetic efforts, the vegetables were more my father's passion. I think it's a family thing, as I can always remember my meme's tomatoes.

Taste memory
Every summer her garden was bursting with life and that strange, green, vegetal pungency of unripened tomatoes and their snaking vines. While glorious explosions of roses were only a stone's throw away, this space was sacred for the thick, juicy, beefsteaks. I know what a real tomato should taste like and winter tomatoes just aren't it.

Actually really good for the season. Go go hydroponics!
While we're thankfully not far from fresh tomatoes by the bushel at the Grower's Market in Williamsport, it seems like the longer the winter goes, the paler, mealier, and weaker the tomatoes get. So, in these last few clinging days of winter, I wanted to give our tomatoes a punch.

Violence against fruit
The solution was, as it is invariably in my kitchen: roasting. This recipe is a prime example of the "low and slow" method, which is ideal for gently removing excess water from vegetables, intensifying their flavor. In this case, tomatoes become redder and richer, tasting almost like sun-dried. Their long rest in the oven with a scattering of garlic forms a harmonious blend of flavor, offset by the bright zing of some fresh basil. Just add a few salty curls of hard grana cheese and a simple, delicious meal is complete in no time.

Effortless and infinitely edible
Slow roasted tomatoes with pasta

This technique is amazing for tomatoes, but also works well with broccoli, asparagus, squash, and zucchini.

1 qt grape tomatoes, halved
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced 
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
8 oz pasta of choice
1/4 c fresh basil leaves, chiffonade (plus more for garnish)
1/4 c freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat the oven to 300ºF and line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.

Sparkle elsewhere, vampires.
Toss the tomatoes on the baking sheet with the olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Roast for 3 hours.

Approximate doneness

Prepare the pasta according to package directions. Once the pasta is cooked, strain and place in a large bowl.

Party time!
Pour the roasted tomatoes onto the pasta, add the basil, and toss until evenly combined.


Garnish with Parmigiano Reggiano and more fresh basil leaves. Serve 4.

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