Monday, February 11, 2008
Sweet Roasted Tomatoes
I like condiments the way I liked jewelry as a tightly-braided calico-printed bookish Mennonite girl: big, gaudy, and swinging from lobes of lettuce, studded or satiny, maybe splayed on velvety cuts of duck or strung in little droplets over beets, swizzled in amber strands over tender rolls and when in hell was the last time I had DUCK, or amber strands of anything? It's high time I got out the dress-ups again.
For starters, we can always hide our dry toast and sprouting potatoes under some clever sauce or pickly thing. Darkly caramelized roasted tomatoes do the trick nicely.
Preheat the oven to 450, oil a baking sheet, and quarter a dozen roma tomatoes* lengthwise, crowding them cut-side up on the baking sheet. Mix two parts sugar to one part salt and sprinkle it lightly over the tomatoes, taking care to keep it off the baking sheet. Slide them in the oven and roast till quite shrunk and dark (put those sugars to work making complicated caramel flavor), but not entirely burnt. Straight-up carbon doesn't taste very complicated. Pull the tomatoes from the oven and let them cool till you can peel them up off the tray without burning yourself. You can store them in a jar in the fridge for a while -- they're lovely in sandwiches, tossed with roasted potatoes and basil, or rolled around a chunk of feta.
Note that eating too many will give you canker sores in your mouth. It's the trait of a good condiment to bite back when we treat it like a staple -- much like our companions when we don nothing but jewelry.
*What? Tomatoes in February? Here I run into a moral snag. If they are quite a thrifty deal, practically free -- and I fix the long-distance insipidity by roasting as I describe -- is it wrong for me to support the multinational-petroleum-gross food industry? Is it downright heinous if Michael Pollan happens to be in Portland tomorrow, touring with his new book, In Defense of Food?