It has come to my attention that I am a tomato snob.
Mark brought this to my attention a few days ago. I had just left a convenience store after the mandatory Diet Coke fountain refill when I spied a charlatan vegetable stand purveyor out front. And how do I know he was a charlatan? Because not three feet from me, sitting on a bench in front of the store, were boxes of tomatoes that were appropriately labeled “tomatoes.” As in tomatoes that come from somewhere else really far away.
How insulting! First of all, anyone who has been around a homegrown tomato can tell the difference between the beautiful, intensely red, not quite perfectly formed version and the reddish, hedging toward pink, too perfect, industrial grown version.
But to try to pawn off the agribusiness tomatoes in Middle Tennessee at the end of August is the height of hypocrisy.
And I am a tomato snob. I do not buy tomatoes from the supermarket, partly because they don’t taste good and partly because many of them come from Florida slave labor camps. I do not eat tomatoes in restaurants because they’re universally bad. I have never understood why restaurants don’t just get the good homegrown ones when they’re in season, but invariably in July and August I will find those sad pathetic supermarket tomatoes in my restaurant salads. As Noah’s friend, Evie, says, “Not allowed.”
When tomatoes go out of season, I am done with fresh ones for the year. I use canned tomatoes instead because they’re picked at the peak of ripeness and canned. I try to choose tomatoes from Italy because ignorance is bliss and I don’t have to worry about the poor slave laborers in Florida.
Here’s how you do it. Cut your tomatoes in half and lay them out on a cookie sheet lined with heavy duty aluminum foil. Drizzle them generously with extra virgin olive oil. You want to be generous with the oil because when it is infused with the slowly roasting tomatoes it will become your sauce. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a little big of sugar. And then roast them at 275 degrees for about three hours, depending on the size of the tomato. You’ll know when they’re done because they will shrivel up quite a bit and will turn dark around the edges.
What to do with them? First of all, you can freeze them in heavy duty freezer bags and pull them out all winter long. I love roasted tomatoes with just their oil, mixed with pasta and sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Spread them on toasted baguette slices and top with fresh mozzarella cheese and basil. Chop them up and add them to homemade pizza. Layer them with shredded chicken in tacos. Puree them and add them to chili.
Well, now I’ve gone and done it. I’ve inspired myself. I have to go to the farmer’s market and buy up a bushel of tomatoes to roast. Winter is coming. I have to be prepared.