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If you're like us, you look to the seasons for what to cook. Get to the market, and we'll show you what to do with your haul.
Today: Managing Editor Kenzi Wilbur tries to convince you to turn on your oven in August. You should listen.
Late-summer dinners are an exercise in assembly. They are avocado toast, or leftovers, cold. They are heaped bowls of raw vegetables with vinaigrette, even the tossing of which might make your forehead bead with sweat. We're not wearing many clothes these days, and our produce isn't either: We eat our peaches out of hand and our Jersey reds by the slab with a fork and knife, like a fat steak. At most, we'll dress them like we do ourselves in gauzy summer shirts: with a slip of olive oil, or a sheer drape of brown butter. Why would we do more? We want to let our vegetables express themselves; we want them to be free.
And yet here I am, in almost-mid August, telling you to take your free, unconstrained produce, and do the thing no one wants to do in mid-August: Apply heat.
Here is why this isn’t foolish: There is a special magic that happens when you roast tiny tomatoes in a shallow puddle of seasoned olive oil until they burst. This dish will break up your raw tomato routine, replace it, and seduce you anew. It will make you look favorably on letting one corner of your kitchen rip at 400 degrees for almost an hour. Even now. Even when you’re sweating and you’re already wearing no pants and putting on an oven mitt feels vaguely like slipping into a down parka. Have faith: The end will justify the means.
The inspiration for this recipe came from the treasure trove that is The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Deb Perelman’s perfect union involves cipollinis and mini-Romas together, poured over toast with white beans for heft. Mine involves sungolds and cherry tomatoes bathed in olive oil, spring onions instead of cipollinis (I’m too lazy to peel the latter), and husky cloves of garlic roasted alongside the whole mess, to be spread on the toast like butter. Instead of the beans, to make it a meal, I eat seconds.
Toss your produce in a tide pool of olive oil, and shove it all into a hot oven. The tomatoes will burst and slouch, in that order, and the onions will turn soft. Everything will get a little toasty. Stir, take a long drink of ice water, stir again, more ice water. Then dump it all onto toasted bread spread with that garlic you roasted. If you’re like me, you’ll want to eat this so badly that you’ll forget a sprinkle of basil. This is okay.
Do not, under any circumstances, neglect scraping the pan well with a spatula; those juices are this recipe’s proudest achievement. They are the reason you’ll go back for seconds. In Deb’s words, “what collects at the bottom of the pan is as close to manna as I think I’ll experience in my lifetime.” Those juices are how this dish will feed your soul.
If you plan on making this for a first date, let me tell you now: This is a fork and knife situation. If you do endeavor to pick them up like toasts and have your way with them, position a plate square under you, be ready to lean over it, and make certain your company already loves you. Tomatoes will fly. Onions will drop. Juices from both will run free without path. Let them.
Serves 3 to 4
1 pound spring onions (or pearl onions, or other smallish onions)
Scant 1 1/2 pounds cherry, grape, and/or sungold tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
4 to 5 big cloves garlic
4 to 5 thick slices of country bread
Herbs for garnish, optional (I like basil or thyme)
Photos by Eric Moran