by Susie Middleton
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4–5 lbs. ripe beefsteak tomatoes (about 16 medium, 12 large), stemmed but not cored
- Kosher salt
- Honey or granulated sugar
- Balsamic vinegar
- 3–4 garlic cloves, peeled and very thinly sliced crosswise
- 3 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves or small oregano, or savory or sage leaves torn into smaller pieces
Prep your tomatoes Heat the oven to 325°. arrange an oven rack in the middle of the oven. line a large (18- x 13- x 1-inch) heavy-duty rimmed sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper. Drizzle one tablespoon of the olive oil over the parchment.
Cut the tomatoes in half through the equator (not through the stem). arrange the tomato halves, cut side up, on the sheet pan. Season each of the halves first with a pinch of kosher salt. Then drizzle the halves with a little bit of honey or sprinkle them with a tiny bit of sugar. if you think your tomatoes are particularly acidic or under-ripe, be a little more generous with the sweet stuff, but don’t overdo it—no more than about 1⁄4 teaspoon honey or 1/8 teaspoon sugar on each. Next drizzle the tomatoes with a little balsamic vinegar. You can hold your thumb over the bottle and add just a few drops, or you can put the vinegar in a small bowl and use a 1/8 teaspoon measure to sprinkle on the vinegar. Then arrange a few of the very thin slices of garlic and a sprinkling of herb leaves over each tomato half. They will look really pretty! Lastly, douse the tomatoes with the rest of the olive oil, making sure that you cover the tops of the tomatoes with oil and that you roll the bottoms of the tomatoes around (gently) in some of the rest of the oil.
Roast the tomatoes until they are collapsed, darkened, and well-caramelized. They will be a deep brown color around the edges and they will be about half their original height (they will collapse more as they cool). This will take between 3 and 4 hours, depending on how much moisture was in your tomatoes to begin with. (If you have seeded the tomatoes, the time will be shorter, too. Plum tomatoes will cook in about 2 hours.) The tomatoes will actually be quite tasty after about 2 1⁄2 hours, but they really start to sing when a lot of their excess water has evaporated and the tomato juices have had a chance to reduce and concentrate to an intense flavor. If you want to or plan to eat the tomatoes right away and you are in a rush, you could take them out sooner. But if you plan to freeze them, the more concentrated and less moist they are, the better they freeze. However, don’t be looking for these tomatoes to dry out—they don’t. Even after many hours of cooking, their flesh is unctuous from simmering in the olive oil. After cooking, drain the excess tomato oil (which is very tasty) off the sheet pan and save it to use in vinaigrettes or on grilled bread or vegetables.
Serve As You Like
Serve the tomatoes warm or at room temperature. They will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for a week or so and in the freezer for a few months. (I like to freeze them in layers between pieces of parchment paper or wax paper in a large plastic container. That way you can remove a few at a time when you need them.) Frozen tomatoes will give off moisture as they defrost so are best used in sauces or dips, rather than whole.
Yields about 24 tomato halves.