Oven-Dried Grape or Cherry Tomatoes

I love tomatoes. Really love them. To me, the anemic orange croquet balls marketed as "tomatoes" all winter long in the supermarket are no such thing. They're the "-oid" equivalent of a tomato: mealy and dry and curiously uniform. A tomato, on the other hand, is something that you can pull off the vine and bite right into, wiping juice off your chin. Something you can slice and nestle between rounds of snowy fresh mozzarella, sprinkle with tender basil leaves, and drizzle with emerald-green olive oil. A tomato-tomato is what you slice half an inch thick and eat between slices of white country bread slathered with mayonnaise. Can you imagine doing such a thing with those other objects? Hardly.

So, I don't eat fresh tomatoes from the first frost of winter to roughly the beginning of summer. With two admitted exceptions. The first is the rare breakdown of willpower when the hothouse tomatoes overwhelm me in a moment of seasonal-affective weakness and I forgo making a car payment to serve fresh tomato slices on burgers in the middle of January.

The second is that I routinely purchase pints of grape tomatoes, which seem to be perennially on sale -- and of almost universally excellent quality -- in my local grocery. I don't know why these little sweeties manage to taste like real tomatoes when their ugly big sisters fall so short, but they do. They're consistently delicious, and other than the occasional moldy one in the bunch, the quality is top-notch. So I buy these to help me bide my time until tomato season comes around.

Unfortunately, my family members do not all share my level of enthusiasm for grape tomatoes. Consequently, I'm frequently left with an extra pint that's starting to dimple or go soft before I'm ready to eat them. I tried a few times to roast them, thinking I could increase their versatility a bit. But each time I was left with a baking tray full of skins and mush, an incarnation that my family considered -- rightly so -- even less appetizing than the original.

But thinking more carefully about the process of roasting something so filled with moisture, I finally came up with the right technique. These aren't roasted so much as dried -- that's low, slow heat -- and the end result is absolutely delicious (we think).

The next time you're faced with a container of dimply grape tomatoes, or your grocer has them on sale, or it's suddenly TOMATO HARVEST season, try this. You can use the oven-dried tomatoes for pasta dishes or salads, or toss a few with bocconcini and extra-virgin olive oil, coarse salt, and red pepper flakes. You'll see why the French call tomatoes the "love apple."

Oven-Dried Grape or Cherry Tomatoes

  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes

  • Olive oil for drizzling

  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher salt works well)

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled (or 1 teaspoon fresh, chopped)

Preheat oven to 225 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Wash and spin-dry tomatoes. Pick over and remove any that are blemished or moldy. Cut tomatoes in half and place in a nonreactive mixing bowl.

Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper to taste, minced garlic, and rosemary. Toss to coat. Pour tomatoes out onto baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Place sheet in oven and cook at 225 degrees F for about 2 hours. Turn tomatoes with a spatula and return to oven. Check again in about 1 hour. Tomatoes are done when they appear to be mostly dry. Tomatoes should still be tender and pliable, not hard or charred.

Store these in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container and used within 2 to 3 days. (They are not true "dried" tomatoes, so they'll spoil at room temp.)

Feel free to scale this recipe to accommodate your tomato booty.


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