Right about this time of year, I crave fresh tomatoes. With a passion. But the tomatoes at the market are still very sad indeed–pink, cottony, and flavorless–and will be for several more months to come.
If you are feeling the same way, I have a solution: roast whole canned tomatoes. They can be eaten hot from the oven–I love to toss them with pasta or quinoa (and a bit of goat cheese…sigh)–or cooled and refrigerated, then served atop salads, or tucked into sandwiches, omelets, or straight into your mouth.
Roasted tomatoes remind me of my maternal grandmother, Gran. Gran was sophisticated, beautiful, a bit snooty (especially when it came to those she considered “cheeky”), and lots of fun. She also happened to adore tomatoes. I realize now that she and my grandfather typically timed their late summer visits to coincide with my mother’s bumper crop of lush, scarlet beauties.
Gran preferred her tomatoes with minimal adornment. Large tomatoes were sliced and plated, sprinkled with nothing more than salt, fresh pepper, and perhaps some herbs; cherry tomatoes were simply nudged from their stems and popped, straight up and warm from the sun, on the spot.
But Gran also loved to roast and broil whole tomatoes to concentrate their flavors. She would serve them hot alongside roast beef, but she would make plenty for leftovers which she would savor the next day for lunch with a bit of cheese and bread. When fresh tomatoes were out of season, she turned to canned whole ones and roasted them, too–a nifty trick she used to satisfy her own tomato longings in the long, freezing Winnipeg winters, and one she continued to rely on after moving to sunny Southern California.
Roasting transforms whole canned tomatoes from good to spectacular. It’s a cheap and easy process, too, requiring nothing more than the tomatoes (halved lengthwise), olive oil, and some pepper. It’s hard not to devour them immediately (however, you are more than likely to do so), but if you can, reserve some for later for the above-mentioned sandwiches and salads. You can also puree the tomatoes with their reserved juices for an instant roasted tomato sauce (just add some broth and touch of cream for instant roasted tomato soup). Pretty fabulous, just like Gran.