Thursday, April 20, 2017

Roasted Tomato Condiment Packed with Flavor

First off, I have to tell a bit of a story. The morning after the Renaissance Festival fundraiser on April 8th, benefiting the Boys and Girls Club of Aberdeen, I was just worn out. My feet hurt, and I had a lot of cooking still to do, with guests at the house. I'd gotten plenty of sleep, but I was on my feet a lot, in heels (which I rarely wear), and a great night's sleep aside, my feet still hurt. So, as head cook and bottle washer in the house, I made an executive decision: "We are going out for breakfast!"

Heidi and Rich
Heidi and Rich
Our guests, Heidi and Rich were here over that Renaissance Festival weekend, and I do a lot of cooking for any guests. I think we may have gone out to eat only once in these years and many many visits we've made between us all. Being a small town, there aren't a huge amount of options for breakfast, so we went to Perkins®. My husband and I went to Perkins® for dinner one evening a few weeks back, and as we often do, we had breakfast. They had some specials going, and I had some sort of "Eggs Benedict," with bacon, avocado and some "slow-roasted" tomatoes, with the usual English Muffin, poached eggs and Hollandaise. Oh, wow, was that ever good. While everything on the plate was fantastic, what really made the dish stand out was those tomatoes. They had some real zip in their flavor, and were almost, but not quite, sweet. 

So, back to our breakfast with friends. I had been really busy these few weeks, so I had forgotten all about that wonderful version of Eggs Benedict, until perusing the specials menu again. When I spotted that dish, I had to have it. Heidi had something called the "Mediterranean". This was an omelette with spinach, "slow-roasted tomatoes" and Feta cheese, topped with Hollandaise. 
Roasted Tomato Pickle
Roasted Tomato Pickle

While eating, I mentioned how much I loved the tomatoes in my dish, only then noticing that Heidi also had them in her dish. I asked what she thought of them, for flavor, and also started looking at them in light of how could I duplicate these, flavor-wise. Rich mentioned that a friend of his makes some roasted tomatoes with red wine vinegar and garlic (for Rich, there is no other main condiment but garlic!). Heidi and I compared pieces of the tomatoes. I was trying to determine if they were sun-dried and then made into this condiment, or were they roasted. I had come to the conclusion they were roasted, because some parts of the tomato still looked like moist tomato, unlike any sun-dried variety I'd ever seen. I set these mental findings aside for the day, but after the guests had left for home, I started thinking again.
Roasted Tomato Pickle, just jarred
Roasted Tomato Pickle, just jarred

I started planning what I wanted to do: first, roast the tomatoes. But then what? Garlic...hmmm. When I steam vegetables, I usually pass a few fresh garlic cloves through my Zyliss garlic press and into a small saucepan. I add in olive oil and a little butter and set the pan on a warming burner, to steep for a minimum of 20 minutes, and up to a couple of hours, depending on the urgency, then pour this over the steamed veggies.. I opted to do this same thing, leaving the butter out. This way, the garlic flavor would be there, but not "in-your-face." Also, I didn't want butter in the mixture at all. 

I thought about the red wine vinegar that Rich had mentioned. But there was also that element of sweetness. I thought of Balsamic vinegar. The tomatoes in the dishes at Perkins® had no other clinging condiments - they were just the pretty red tomato halves. Still, I thought I might add some shallot. And last minute I opted for a few capers, also. My first attempt turned out really good. Tasting the mixture freshly made, it still seemed not quite as I remembered, and definitely lacking sweetness, so I added a teaspoon of honey. That was better. I put them in a jar and in the fridge.
Garlic in Oil - Roasted Tomatoes - Sauce
Garlic in Oil - Roasted Tomatoes - Sauce

When I pulled them out a few days later to try, they were SOOOOO good. They may not be a perfect match for those from the restaurant, but they are darned close, and absolutely heavenly. I used some on a grilled cheese sandwich and they took that sandwich to heights heretofore unknown!

Roasted Tomato Pickle
Roasted Tomato Pickle

Roasted Tomato Pickle

Makes about 1½ cups

1 pound Roma tomatoes
salt, for sprinkling
fresh ground pepper, for sprinkling
1 - 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
olive oil, for sprinkling 

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 - 3 cloves garlic, through garlic press or minced

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon nonpareil capers
1 teaspoon honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil, spray the foil with cooking spray and set aside.
Score tomatoes and remove seeds
Score tomatoes and remove seeds

Cut the tomatoes lengthwise in half, then each half lengthwise into halves, making four long pieces from each tomato. Over the sink or over a bowl, using fingers, remove all the seeds and wetter parts of the tomatoes and discard. Using a sharp, serrated knife, score the tomato skins twice on each segment of tomato. Place them skin side upwards on the foil lines baking sheet. Sprinkle each tomato segment with a little salt, a little pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and some of the thyme leaves. Set the pan in the oven and time it for 1 hour. 

Check the tomatoes about halfway through the baking period, and turn the pieces over with tongs. At near the hour, check the tomatoes and remove any that are getting too dark, or are apparently dried and a bit leathery. Continue baking, keeping watch. They may need more than an hour. Some of my tomatoes were very large and took a total of 1 hour 20 minutes.

While the tomatoes are roasting, set a small saucepan on a warming burner or over a small burner at lowest possible temperature. Add in the garlic and allow to steep. If the oil starts to simmer, remove the pan from the heat, or set the pan only partially on the burner. The mixture should steep in hot oil, but not boil or burn the garlic.

In a bowl, combine the ingredients for the sauce and stir to dissolve honey. 

Once the tomatoes are done, add them to the sauce and pour the garlic and oil over top. Stir, then pour into a glass jar with lid. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.