Robin Anish: Can't wait for vine-ripe tomatoes? Try roasting them

After much deliberation and planning, my seed orders for this year's garden have been placed. I will look forward to several months of fresh produce growing in my own back yard and I'll anxiously await that first ripe tomato. The jewel of the garden; a joy to behold and, for some, the only reason to garden. Even non-gardeners will pot up a few plants for the patio just to have a few home-grown tomatoes to call their own.

The difference in taste between hot house tomatoes available year round and those that are home grown is pronounced. Vine ripened, fresh from the garden is the best; so much so, that some folks won't eat a tomato all year until they are in season locally. I get it, but there is a way to transform out of season tomatoes into sweet, tomatoey goodness.

Roasting is the way to go. When roasted, even hot house tomatoes become rich and flavorful. There are several techniques. Each method starts the same. Slice plum tomatoes in half lengthwise and arrange in one layer on a sheet pan or baking dish large enough to accommodate. Drizzle generously with olive oil; season with sea salt and a light sprinkle of sugar. Cooking times will vary based on the size of the tomatoes so check often for desired doneness.

For a dried tomato, roast in a preheated 200-degree oven for about six to eight hours or until well shriveled, caramelized, a bit chewy and intensely flavored.

Roast at 325 degrees for up to two hours until reduced by about half and the flavor is nicely concentrated, lightly caramelized around the edges and the flesh is moist. Great for sandwiches, on pizza or layered with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a roasted tomato caprese salad.

Quick high-heat roasting results in a juicy tomato with the added flavor of a slight char. Roast in a preheated 425-degree oven for about 45 minutes or until juices are running and the skins have browned a bit. These tomatoes are now ready to use in this recipe for Greek-style roasted tomatoes and shrimp.


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