Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Roasting Tomatoes to Freeze

I love pretty much everything about tomatoes: the way they smell when you pick them fresh from the vine, the sweet acidic flavor that screams of summertime, the beautiful patterns that appear when you slice into an heirloom...

...the only thing I don't love is that I can't grow them in my shady yard.

Thankfully I have fabulous parents (one of whom grew up farming and can't seem to stop himself from working the earth each year to my delight) who planted several different varieties of tomatoes this year. Even though they came on late because of our cold spring, they had such a crop that the fruit was bending the tomato cages with their weight.

I gladly volunteered to take some of the bounty; I stuffed myself with fresh tomato sandwiches for a couple days, and then had to decide what to do with the rest. The answer? Roast and freeze them, of course.

I washed and quartered the tomatoes (unless they were super big ones, then I cut them into sixths). I scooped a lot of the seeds and their surrounding tomato goo out (but I wasn't worried about getting it all).

Next I laid them out on a cookie sheet with sides and covered them in liberal amounts of extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, italian herbs, and minced garlic. I even splashed some balsamic vinegar on there for good measure and some extra deliciousness.

I slid the pan into my oven and roasted the tomatoes at 400°F for 45 minutes or so. Warning: the smell in your kitchen will drive you insane, it's unbelievably good.

You want the tomatoes to reduce down in size, but you don't want them to be black and shriveled. There will most likely be plenty of juice in the pan that cooked out, and there might be some spots that are darkened. As long as they're not tough little hockey puck tomatoes you're okay -- the point is to leave them soft and squishy so you can mash them up instead of roasting them down to the point of tomato paste or sun-dried tomato status.

Remove the tomatoes from the pan and roughly chop them with a kitchen knife. It will be messy and the juices will run everywhere, so just make peace with that. Scoop the tomatoes into freezer bags in whatever quantities your heart desires, and you are set for life (or at least until you run out). I even left the skins on -- except for a few big pieces that were really noticeable -- but I'm a daredevil and the skins on these were nice and thin; feel free to peel them before you cut them up if you prefer.

Now I can have that gorgeous fresh roasted flavor for sauces, or soups, or even bruschetta. And the best part? Even in the dead of winter, if you buy sad little Roma tomatoes at the grocery store and roast them like this, they will taste incredible (I'd probably peel those ones after I roasted them, though).

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