Adapted from The Los Angeles TimesThis recipe is neither easy nor quick (in fact, it will take most of a day to make). But if you want to capture the essence of gorgeous vine-ripened tomatoes (while you still can get them at market), this is your recipe. By slowly cooking tomato pulp in a low oven, you end up with an intensely flavored, homemade tomato paste that is sweeter with a more pure tomato taste than the canned varieties. Add a tablespoon to any pasta sauce, stew, soup, or gravy to impart a concentrated tomato depth of flavor. It is also a great condiment; spread it on toast instead of butter, serve with a cheese board, scramble a teaspoon into eggs, or eat with a gooey grilled cheese sandwich. Top each jar with a layer of olive oil, and the conserva will keep months in the refrigerator (if you scale up the recipe, keep the extra in half pint jars in the freezer). Just be sure to always use a very clean utensil when scooping it out, and adding more oil to the top before returning it to the refrigerator.
| |Make about 1 to 1 1/2 cups
Special equipment: food mill, half-pint canning jars, rimmed baking sheet ( a.k.a. half sheet
5 pounds ripe good-quality tomatoes - meaty Romas work great
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for storage
1 teaspoon salt
1. Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Chop tomatoes roughly. Warm the olive oil in a large pot, add the tomatoes and salt, and bring the tomatoes to a rapid boil. Cook the tomatoes for about 2 minutes, or until they are very soft. Immediately pass them through the finest plate of a food mill, pushing as much of the pulp through the sieve as you can. Note: If your tomatoes are very ripe and you have a strong arm, you can skip the cooking step, but it will require lots of elbow grease.
2. Lightly oil a baking sheet with olive oil. Spread the tomatoes on the pan in an even layer. The tomatoes will spend 4 to 5 hours total in the oven, evaporating liquid and reducing considerably. 3. Allow tomatoes to cook for 90 minutes, remove from oven and use a spatula to the turn the paste. Return to oven and cook, turning every hour, until all the liquid has evaporated and the paste is turning dark and thick. This should take 2 to 3 more hours (depending on your oven and the water content of your tomatoes). 4. Once the paste is thick and dark, reduce the oven to 250 degrees and continue to cook another 2 hours, turning it with a spatula every 45 minutes to an hour. The paste is done when it is thick, shiny, and a deep red and may be ready to come out of the oven in less than two hours.
5. Transfer the conserva to two to three clean half-pint glass canning jars. Tomato conserva holds for a long time stored in glass jars and topped with one-half inch of olive oil. As you use it, maintain this level of olive oil on top. When not using it, store conserva in the refrigerator.
Romano or flat green beans require a little more cooking than regular green beans. Stewing them in tomatoes and garlic tenderizes them and infuses them with flavor. We like this Italian preparation as a side dish with roasted chicken or with poached eggs for a savory breakfast. They are even good at room temperature topped with a little crumbled feta or ricotta salata. If you can’t find romanos, you can use regular green beans instead.
| |Serves 4 to six as a side dish
1 1/2 pounds Romano beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
3 cups peeled and diced tomatoes and their juices; preferably fresh Romas from market (see notes on how to peel tomatoes)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
10 basil leaves
Bring a medium pot of water and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. Add cut beans and boil for five minutes. Drain and set aside.
Over medium heat, heat oil in a large sauté pan, add garlic and once fragrant (about a minute; be sure not to brown) add optional chili flakes and the tomatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes start to break down. Add the cooked beans, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and stir to combine. Cook another 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are considerably reduced. Season with freshly grated black pepper and more salt, if need. Turn off heat.
Cut the basil into a chiffonade
(stack the leaves, roll them tightly, and cut into very thin strips) and stir into tomato/bean stew. The leaves will darken pretty quickly, so if not serving immediately, and you want a pop of color, you can add another chiffonade of basil leaves right before serving.
To peel tomatoes, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cut an "X" into the bottom of each tomato. Working in batches of two or three tomatoes at time, drop them into boiling water for about a minute. Remove from water and when cool enough to handle, peel off the skin. With this dish you can use the same pot of salted water to peel tomatoes and boil cut beans; just do the tomatoes first.
Oven-roasting summer ripe tomatoes is a great way to bring out their sweetness! Meaty Romas are the best variety for oven roasting, but anything soil-grown and vine-ripened will do the trick. We eat these with poached eggs, on a sandwich, or folded into hot pasta with chopped herbs and grated cheese. They keep for about one week in the refrigerator. You can also freeze them and use them this winter in a roasted tomato soup or pasta sauce.
Makes approximately one quart.
3 pounds sun-ripened tomatoes, preferably Romas
5 unpeeled garlic cloves
1/3 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary
2 teaspoons salt
Pre-heat oven to 325 ºF. Wash tomatoes and slice in half length-wise. Place them cut side down on a rimmed cookie sheet (a.k.a half sheet pan) lined with parchment paper or a non-stick silicone baking mat. Tuck the garlic cloves and herbs among the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
Bake for one hour, remove pan from oven and carefully turn each tomato over so it is cut side up. Bake for another 45 minutes and check on them. I f you want to cook them longer, lower oven to 300 ºF and cook another 30 minutes. The tomatoes are done when they are shriveled but still moist.
Allow them to cool completely and store, along with garlic and any accumulated liquid, in an airtight container.