These were fresh, from Lucero Organic Farms (at the SF and Berkeley Farmers Markets throughout the week) and I have never seen San Marzano tomatoes fresh before (only in cans for sauce), and I could not resist bringing these little eggplant-shaped tomatoes home. Right now is the end of high season for tomatoes and the markets here in Northern California have all manner of heirloom variety tomatoes, but after one too many $4 mealy, bland heirlooms, I don't buy too many of the giant heirlooms anymore.
In fact, I don't buy fresh tomatoes most of the year at all. I enjoy Early girls, especially "dry-farmed", with a slightly more intense flavor and a thicker skin.
They are pretty (even though they are often described as ugly) but I haven't had the transcendent experience with the flavor of fresh heirlooms that so many people have.
Considering my devotion to tomato sauces & salsas, I prefer the concentrated flavor of cooked or prepared tomatoes to fresh.
So I won't give you a caprese salad. If you have a lot of tomatoes than you can jam, pickle or cure them or do as I do-- dry them in the oven.
I first discovered this technique through Molly's wonderful book A Homemade Life, and the first time she posted the recipe for Slow Roasted Tomatoes was in 2005. Incidentally, Homemade Life is the only food memoir I have read that really can be used as a cookbook. Each chapter is essentially a warmly and well written headnote with a real live recipe at the end, a recipe that you will not only want to make, but you should have every confidence will come out well. I have made several things including the chocolate cupcakes, all with great success.
But I thank this book for introducing me to oven drying tomatoes. All you need is several hours in a low oven. They taste wonderful in as little as 2 hours, and can go up to 6 depending on their size. Look at this beautiful photo from Molly's post to see how they should look when done, and to see why you should make them as soon as possible. You will find another beautifully photographed slow roasted tomato recipe on Smitten Kitchen.
This is the perfect thing to do with tomatoes that are on the verge of going bad, or ones you need to use. Effectively you are hitting the pause button on the tomatoes until you can use them. I have roasted a batch and left them in the fridge for several days before inspiration strikes.
Oven-Dried Tomatoes (Adapted from Orangette)
It seems silly to write out a recipe for something so flexible, adapatable and foolproof, but here you are! It doesn't matter which tomatoes you use, though if you use a large variety (beefsteak or giant heirloom tomatoes), slice them thickly instead of in half. I like Early Girls, plum tomatoes, and my goodness if you can find them, fresh San Marzano tomatoes. (And if you use them, please make pasta sauce!)
If you are using herbes de provence or another herb that is not ground, rub the herbs between your palms over the sheet. This will release the flavor.
Ripe-ish tomatoes, preferably San Marzano/Early Girl/Plum/Roma
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Ground Oregano (or herbes de provence)
Preheat the oven to 250 F (121 C).
Wash the tomatoes, cut off the stem end, and slice them in half lengthwise (there is no need to remove the seeds as is typically called for in tomato recipes). Lightly oil a large rimmed baking sheet (I use olive oil cooking spray) and place them, skin side down, onto the sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes lightly (or spray lightly to just barely coat). Sprinkle them with sea salt, pepper and ground herbs - I use about 3 pinches of each per baking sheet (or one pinch for each double row of tomatoes). Eyeball it.
Bake the tomatoes until they shrink to about 1/2 of their original size but are still soft and juicy, 2 to 4 hours. [I am impatient and usually want to eat them sooner rather than later, but Molly lets hers go at 200 for a full 6 hours. I am sure this develops the flavor even more.] The skins will wrinkle around the edges.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven, and allow the tomatoes to cool to room temperature. Place them in an airtight container, and store them in the refrigerator.
Things to do with your oven-dried tomatoes?
1. Chop them and use them in place of sun-dried tomatoes anywhere, or augment a pasta sauce with them.
2. Blend/Process the tomatoes with olive oil as the starter for a fabulous tomato sauce, instead of the puree or sauce in a recipe like this.
3. Blend/process with fresh basil and/or arugula (and pine nuts or walnuts) for a wonderful pesto or dip.
4. Just pop them straight into your mouth, oh my THEY ARE THAT GOOD.
5. Slice them (after they are completely cool) and use as a pizza topping or quiche filling with feta or goat cheese.
6. Use cumin in place of the suggested herbs and make a chunky salsa with half fresh tomatoes and half oven-dried tomatoes. This would be something like a souped-up pico de gallo, as an alternative to the smokier/heavier roasted tomato salsa. If you like those, try Rick Bayless' Roasted Tomato Salsa recipe.
7. Did I mention just eating them straight off the hot pan like someone itching for a finger burn?
8. If you use a large tomato (beefsteak/giant heirloom) use the thick slices on a sandwich with lemon pepper mayonnaise. One of the best sandwiches I ever had was a smoked trout sandwich with an oven dried tomato slice.
9. OK, just make them!