Roasting tomatoes to save the late-summer bounty

Roasted tomatoes bring an intense sweetness to a

Roasted tomatoes bring an intense sweetness to a simple spaghetti dish. (Aug. 22, 2013) (Credit: Eve Bishop)

The abundance of late-summer tomatoes is a mixed blessing. It is wonderful to be able to enjoy them in massive quantities, but there's also the sad realization the supply won't last. If you are not up to the task of canning your surplus, is there anything you can you do to preserve your garden's tomato bounty for a snowy day?

The simplest and most flavorful solution is oven roasting. Slice your extra tomatoes in half and place them, cut-sides up, on a wire rack set on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and bake. I've seen recipes that call for roasting at 225 degrees for 3 hours, and others that specify 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Any temperature will work. Just keep an eye on your tomatoes and pull them out when they are shriveled but not completely dry.

This method works best on tomatoes without a lot of seeds and juice. Plum tomatoes and cherry tomatoes are both good choices. Oven-roasted tomatoes will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days and can be frozen for up to 6 months. Roast some today and you can enjoy them in the dark days of February.

Roasted tomatoes have a concentrated flavor and sweetness similar to sun-dried tomatoes. But in texture they are entirely different. While commercial sun-dried tomatoes are practically dehydrated, giving them a chewy and sometimes leathery consistency, roasted tomatoes are tender and yielding. And unlike commercially available sun-dried tomatoes, homemade roasted tomatoes are all-natural and preservative-free.

A few ideas for using your tomatoes, now or later:

ON SANDWICHES AND PIZZA Roasted tomatoes add moisture to sandwiches without making bread soggy. Try grilled Cheddar cheese with roasted tomatoes, or a BL and roasted T. Roast beef, roasted tomatoes and rosemary-flavored mayonnaise is another favorite. They also are great on pizzas, adding flavor without drenching the dough. Roasted tomatoes and ricotta cheese are a good combination, as are roasted tomatoes, fennel sausage and Fontina cheese.

IN SALADS Add defrosted roasted tomatoes to a green salad in the middle of the winter, when flavorless supermarket tomatoes are the only other option. They also are good in heartier salads made with grains. Toss couscous, roasted tomatoes, olives and feta cheese for a quick vegetarian main dish. Another good combination: bulgur, roasted tomatoes, sauteed onions, spinach and chickpeas. Don't be shy with the spices. The robust flavor of roasted tomatoes stands up well to salad dressings containing cumin, smoked paprika and chili powder.

WITH PASTA Perhaps the most obvious way to enjoy roasted tomatoes is together with pasta. Some possibilities: Penne, roasted tomatoes and white beans; spaghetti, roasted tomatoes, feta and garlicky shrimp; roasted tomatoes, avocado and chilies; roasted tomatoes, artichoke hearts, olives and lemon zest.

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SPAGHETTI WITH ROASTED TOMATOES AND ANCHOVY-GARLIC BREAD CRUMBS

2 pounds plum tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

2 cups stale country bread or baguette, torn into pieces

4 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped

12 ounces spaghetti

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Arrange a wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet. Place the tomatoes on the rack, cut-sides up. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and thyme leaves. Bake until the tomatoes are shriveled but still a little juicy, 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.

2. Heat 1 / 4 cup of olive oil and the garlic in a small skillet over medium-low heat until just fragrant, about 2 minutes. Do not let the garlic brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.

3. Combine bread and anchovies in the workbowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped.

4. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente.

5. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat and add the bread crumb mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted. Remove from heat, stir in parsley, and set aside.

6. Drain pasta, leaving some water clinging to it. Return pasta to pot and toss with tomatoes and garlic oil. Season with salt. Divide among pasta bowls, sprinkle each portion with bread crumbs, and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings