Tomato

The Single Most Genius Thing You Can Do to a Ripe Tomato

September  6, 2017

There are heaps of inarguably perfect ways to eat a ripe tomato—on plain-jane sandwich bread with a cushy swipe of mayo, blistered hot and fast in a skillet till the skins peel back and the oil swirls with juice, cherry babies squished behind your sealed lips.

But the one way to make a tomato taste its most tomatoey, to become a fully actualized, out-loud version of itself, is to very verrrry slowly remove that which isn’t tomato. And the part that isn’t pulling its weight as tomato is the 94% of it that’s water.

To quietly Hoover away that water and reveal tomatoes at their fullest potential (without overdoing it and turning them to sauce), do what Molly Wizenberg was doing a good twelve years ago on Orangette—which isn’t much: Simply halve your tomatoes, brush them with oil, dust them with salt and citrusy-spicy ground coriander, then leave them in a 200° F oven for many hours—a good four to six. (Don’t worry, this won’t noticeably warm your kitchen, and asks only that you not completely forget them in the oven.)

In that time, two-thirds of their water weight will have floated into the ether, leaving behind baby-soft curls of tomato skin, cradling a condensed, jammy, electric-tomato core. They won't have gone so far as chewy, raisin-like sun-dried tomatoes—they're very much still fresh and alive, a pulpy pulse still pounding.

They’re best and most outrageous when made with ripe Romas or other meaty types, but as Wizenberg points out, slow-roasting will bring out the tomato in even the pale and off-season, if you feel the need.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Since they're usually more urgently needed than a 2+ hour roast will allow, I like to place them on a bed of sliced shallot, fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs, drizzle on olive oil, sprinkle on kosher salt, and in to a 400-degree oven they go for 40-60 minutes. Then a zig-zag of aged balsamic vinegar when they come out. And, a kudos to "Genius Recipes." Our son discovered the guacamole recipe, and we are grateful!”
— Judith P.
Comment

Make a lot. They keep for a week in the fridge, and are just fine in the freezer. Here are a few ideas for what I would do with them, but I want to know—what will you?

  1. Eat them straight, warm from the oven. Try not to eat them all at once. I know, this one’s a freebie!
  2. After you’ve cooked your eggs, fried, scrambled, or other—revuelto-ed?—toss the tomatoes around in the still-hot pan to take the chill off, then dump over the eggs. Like the broiled tomato that comes in a full English breakfast, but punchier. (Same applies to anything else you’ve cooked in a skillet, from steak to green beans to corn cakes.)
  3. Slice and stir into your egg/chicken/tuna/potato/other mayo-based salad for extra pep.
  4. Inspired by all the time I spent at Cafe Panini in Berkeley in the 1990s: Broil with pesto and fresh mozzarella till bubbling on skinny baguette boats or other toast of choice, top with slivers of fresh basil or chives plus crunchy salt.
  5. Tuck into your BLT or burger or grilled cheese for something that’s somewhere between fresh tomato and ketchup.
  6. Blend into any saucevinaigrette, aioli, tartar, romesco—to make it scream tomato! without also screaming tomato water! and throwing the balance out of whack.

Photos by Julia Gartland

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thank you to Food52ers sugarmountaintreats and Rhonda35 for suggesting this one all those years ago.

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21 Comments

riv September 10, 2017
My all time favorite thing to do with tomatoes. I prefer grape, with their low water content, but romas with the watery, seedy center removed work quite well too. Yum.
 
Pamela L. September 9, 2017
Why does the recipe call for Roma (plum tomatoes) when the photo is grape tomatoes?
 
Kathy September 8, 2017
Another amazing recipe on Food 52 to use ripe, summer tomatoes is the roasted tomato jam... marvelous! https://food52.com/recipes/23676-roasted-tomato-jam
 
Rose L. September 8, 2017
not a Fall goes by that i don't do oven roast tomatoes since i learned about it on a trip to Melbourne, AU. i freeze them afterwards and have them for the whole winter.
 
Josephine P. September 8, 2017
Have them for breakfast with English sausages
 
Ellen O. September 8, 2017
One way I preserve dried tomatoes is to layer them in a mason jar alternating with basil leaves, and pour over olive oil to cover. Keeps in refrigerator for several months. The tomatoes remain soft, and easy to cut up for sauce or spread on a pizza. The yummy basil is an extra bonus!
 
Judith P. September 8, 2017
'So glad to get the basil pesto nudge, thank you! I love roasting tomatoes. Since they're usually more urgently needed than a 2+ hour roast will allow, I like to place them on a bed of sliced shallot, fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs, drizzle on olive oil, sprinkle on kosher salt, and in to a 400-degree oven they go for 40-60 minutes. Then a zig-zag of aged balsamic vinegar when they come out. And, a kudos to "Genius Recipes." Our son discovered the guacamole recipe, and we are grateful!
 
Beth September 8, 2017
Can I use my dehydrator instead of the oven? That would air-dry them rather than heat-dry them and probably wouldn't take as long.
 
Lea September 8, 2017
The link for Orangette doesn't work....
 
Joan -. September 8, 2017
Here's a good link to beautiful writing and photos. http://orangette.net/2005/08/better-living-through-slow-roasting/
 
Joan -. September 8, 2017
BTW - The "recipe" and photo on the Food 52 "Oops message" are worth the detour. Yummy for the eye and the tummy.
 
[email protected] September 8, 2017
Trader Joe's 21 Spice Salute and /or Smoked Paprika works well(no salt in the mix) or Badia's Garlic & Parsley is a staple in my Kitchen
 
Katharine M. September 8, 2017
This looks and sounds delicious and the writing is beautiful!
 
emcsull September 8, 2017
shame I don't really care for ground coriander, though. any other suggestions ?
 
Karen L. September 8, 2017
Oh! I meant to say that I just use olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. It's DELICIOUS!
 
Karen L. September 8, 2017
I do this all the time, especially when I have tomatoes I won't get to eat and don't want them to go bad. They are great tossed with pasta with pesto and sausage. That's my fave! But so many options!
 
[email protected] September 8, 2017
Thanks for Sharing , Now I have another topping for my Home Made Pizza with Basil<br /> & Mozzarella
 
Negative N. September 6, 2017
I love tomatoes roasted this way. They're like candy!
 
Valhalla September 6, 2017
This also works well with plums.
 
sunny B. September 8, 2017
What do you do besides half & remove the pits? Olive oil? Any seasonings you recommend?
 
BerryBaby September 6, 2017
Roasted tomatoes are wonderful! Been doing this for as long as I can remember. This method produces incredible flavor.