The best part of growing tomatoes is eating them! That's my motto as I tend my Mid-Atlantic kitchen garden. I can't wait for that first sun-kissed fruit to ripen.
Although I feast on fresh-sliced heirloom tomatoes, I preserve oblong, blocky roma tomatoes. These meaty fruits occupy significant space in my kitchen garden because they're the tomatoes I preserve, cook into ketchup, and whip into marinara sauce. My favorite way to preserve romas is slow-roasting.
The process is long--hours and hours--but the results are worth it. Slow roasting distills classic tomato flavor into a sweet, caramelized nectar that transforms every dish it graces. Once you've had slow-roasted tomatoes, you won't go back.
My recipe uses olive oil, salt, pepper and two other homegrown ingredients from my kitchen garden: garlic and fennel seed. I follow a process that takes about a day from start to finish. Some folks roast overnight, but I dislike running the oven unattended.
Preheat oven to 225°F.
Slice a roma tomato in half. Place it cut side up on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and fennel seed. Add whole peeled cloves of garlic.
Roast tomatoes for about 7 hours until edges are wrinkled and garlic cloves are brown.
To store for immediate use (within one week): Heap tomatoes and garlic in a jar and cover with olive oil. Seal tightly and refrigerate.
To save for winter feasting: Slip a few slow-roasted tomatoes and garlic cloves into snack-size food storage bags. Place in 1-gallon bag and freeze. Snack-size bags provide a perfect portion size for chopping into fresh marinara sauce, omelets or your favorite pasta creation.
I love to chop slow-roasted tomatoes onto homemade pizza.
I also use them to stuff whole-wheat olive-oil bread, adding more garlic and parmesan cheese.
My kitchen garden keeps my pantry well-stocked and helps me serve flavorful meals. What is your favorite garden-inspired recipe?