To say that I don’t have a green thumb is more than an understatement. My brother Mark, got the green thumb in the family, along with all of the musical ability, thick dark, curly hair and eyelashes, and well, a lot of things I still wish I had. When he lived in Brooklyn he basically had the secret garden growing in his apartment. In contrast, I could kill a bamboo plant. But I love the idea of growing my own food. So I have two raised planters in the backyard where I’ve been growing herbs, peppers and some vegetables for the last few years.
It’s great to have fresh herbs growing in the backyard because I cook with them so much and hate spending $2 here and $3 there to buy them at the store (in quantities that I don’t really need or use). I’ve also been growing peppers: Shishitos, Banana peppers, Jalapenos, Serranos and, this year, Poblanos - mostly because they are easy to grow and the bunnies don’t like them. An added bonus is that when I have a zillion peppers ready at the same time in mid-August I am able to pickle and candy them. The best part? We actually eat all of those jars of peppers throughout the year.
This year, we planted a cherry tomato plant that basically took over the garden. We obviously should have built some kind of structure so that it could grow upwards instead of out. Lessons learned. Because the growing season in Chicago is so short and grocery store tomatoes are nothing like homegrown ones, I never, ever, EVER get sick of eating fresh tomatoes. However, when the tomatoes finally started ripening on our single plant, we had too many for the 5 of us to consume. So, last weekend I decided to slow roast a couple of trays of them with garlic and herbs and throw them in the freezer. It really couldn’t be easier and the hands-on time is 5 minutes tops.
These little guys are great in pastas, soups, braised chicken or meat dishes, piled on top of a big scoop of hummus, or as a bruschetta topping. Beware, these little guys really cook down and as they do, they shrivel up until they start to look like sun-dried tomatoes. But that’s the whole point. As they dry out in the oven their flavor is concentrated and they become chewy and even sweeter. After they are roasted I like to drizzle them with a little bit of honey to accentuate that natural sweetness even more.
Oven Roasted Tomatoes
- 2-3 lb cherry tomatoes
- 12 cloves of garlic, whole (unpeeled, I used peeled because I had pre-peeled garlic on hand, unpeeled is better)
- A bunch of fresh herbs, I used Thyme for one pan and Tarragon for the other
- Olive oil, enough for a generous drizzle over the tomatoes
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Honey or agave nectar, to taste (optional)
Preheat oven to 300F.
Cut tomatoes in half and put seed side up along with garlic cloves on a sheet pan covered with a baking mat or sheet of parchment paper.
Drizzle with olive oil.
Sprinkle with fresh herbs, salt and pepper.
Slip sheet pans in the oven and cook for a total of 2-3 hours, rotating from top to bottom (if you have two pans in there) about 1 hour in.
Tomatoes are ready when they have cooked down and dried out considerably and have become chewy but remain tender with concentrated tomato flavor. Taste them and take them out when you think they are done.
Allow to cool at room temperature before placing in labeled bags (I always think that I will recognize things months later in the freezer but I never do) or other containers in the freezer.