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Tomato Roasting Tips

September 3, 2013

I was ruined by an article on roasting tomatoes about 10 years ago, and I have never looked back since.  The flavors of roasted vegetables are so different and delicious it’s hard to turn them down.  Kitchen magic for sure with tomatoes and other odd and ends from the garden. Now that field tomatoes are starting to come in, I think you should try some roasted tomatoes just to see if you’re as smitten as I am with the flavor.

Ready for roasting

Ready for roasting

The roasting pan is your friend when it comes to using up odds and ends from other kitchen projects. I like to think of the roasting pan as the stock pot of summer.  Onion ends, over-ripe herb stalks, peppers, green beans, summer squash, past due corn, nasturtium buds…you name it.  Some of these blends from garden cast-offs make the best soup or casserole bases ever come winter.  If you close your eyes you can see the hazy days of September in every savory bite.  Because of the large amount of low acid vegetables I put in these mixes I freeze them rather than canning just to be on the safe side.

Salsa makings

Salsa makings

garlic scapes for the freezer

garlic scapes for the freezer

I start planning my tomato roasting early on when i have a plethora of garlic scapes.  I chop the scapes and freeze them for later use.  A few dozen cups of garlic scapes put away helps stretch my garlic supply and gives me a good excuse to use them for something.

garden glut

garden glut

SunSugar F1

SunSugar F1

I’m almost done with my sauce and salsa making, and my tomatoes are winding down, so now anything goes.  Any type of tomato gets used, and the variety of tomato types just adds to the complexity of the flavor of the finished product.

Any kind of herb lends itself to flavoring the roasted tomatoes, if it’s important to you, label the contents of each batch, we have more leanings to the cilantro/coriander, oregano, garlic flavor, rather than basil, oregano, garlic so I never bother with labeling.  If you’re experimenting though, the labeling is nice, some herbs change in flavor over time so it’s nice to know what works and what doesn’t for future reference.  I have to admit a lot of this mix can be used straight as filling for calzones, or just for dipping that crusty bread in.  Or even as a chunky soup, a quicker meal can hardly be had.

Some of my herbs are getting a little leggy, but still can impart a good flavor.  If I’m using stems of say like basil or even celeriac, I strip the leaves and reserve for the top, and put the stemmy part under the tomatoes so they can stew a little in the tomato juice as the tomatoes roast.  Be sure to remove them though before freezing or if you’re using a food mill.  It’s no fun taking apart the food mill halfway through the job to clean out the stems.

Lately I have been too busy outside for marathon fast roasting days, so I have been taking a more relaxed approach and when I have to leave I turn off my oven and let the residual heat do a lot of the reduction of juices.  Slow and easy makes for great flavor.  I find this to be as productive if not more for me anyway, since I am notorious for rushing the process and burning a pan or three of tomatoes by having the oven too hot, or forgetting to lower the oven temperature.

I leave the skins on and pluck them off (sometimes, that is, if you’re using a food mill there is no need to remove the skins) after roasting, but if you prefer you can blanch and remove the skins and then roast.  Do what works for you, there is only one rule –  there are no rules.

Rather than purchasing ingredients for roasting tomatoes, look around your garden.  I’m using onions that won’t keep or are small, same with garlic, small cloves, throw them in.  Basil getting wonky, throw it in.  Cilantro turned to coriander?  Throw it in.  Can’t stomach another green bean, zucchini or eggplant – throw it in.  All these odds and ends coupled with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a glug of balsamic vinegar and you have the makings for many flavorful winter meals.  Enjoy!

24 Comments leave one →
  1. September 3, 2013 10:33 am

    Great. Julie just started doing this too. The results are excellent. For some reason we are too lazy to roast the necks, backs, heads, feet and gizzards before making broth the way frugal squirrel detailed years ago but the tomato thing is a snap. Thanks for the detail.

  2. September 3, 2013 11:07 am

    I was just looking for your posts on roasting tomatoes yesterday. Interesting timing.

  3. September 3, 2013 11:22 am

    You know what, I’ve never had roasted tomatoes, but I want them now!

  4. September 3, 2013 2:19 pm

    Hi Nita, long time, no see. I know this is a busy time for you but I wanted to say hello so you know I haven’t fallen off the planet. Just getting back into our garden after about a year of my husband’s ill health and a million other things. It’s good to get my hands in the dirt again. Good to see you plugging away too. I send my best to you and your family.

  5. rhondajean permalink
    September 3, 2013 2:23 pm

    Having trouble posting comments for some reason. Anyhow Nita, I just wanted to say hello so you know I haven’t fallen off the planet. I see things are unchanged here – that’s always a good thing – and that you’re madly busy putting up your jars. I send my best wishes to you and the family.

    • September 3, 2013 3:46 pm

      RhondaJean, so glad to hear from you! I’ve been hearing lately that it is hard to leave comments on WordPress. They change things so often its hard to keep up. So glad you checked in, I try to keep up with you and H, and the grandbabies so precious. Best from here too.

  6. Chris permalink
    September 3, 2013 2:45 pm

    These roasty things look wonderful! I’ve never roasted anything except root veggies so looks like I better get started on tomatoes! 🙂
    I’m curious…do you ever watch tv. or do you even have one? It doesn’t seem like you would even have the time…not that you’re missing anything! 🙂

    • September 3, 2013 3:43 pm

      Chris, oh yes we have a glow box (See The Good Dog, by Avi)and usually name our animals after shameless TV show or movie characters… I think we watch more movies than television though, and you’d be surprised how many peppers you can chop while watching tv.

  7. September 3, 2013 3:54 pm

    I was just starting to think about getting tired of tomatoes, and now this! Fresh inspiration! And my basil is decidedly wonky. What about kale, Matron? Please advise. I WAY overplanted this awesome green, and my freezer is about full. What do I do with all of it, besides feed it to my (already well-fed) chickens??

    • September 3, 2013 4:03 pm

      Depending where you live it may overwinter. I would just keep feeding it to your chickens or yourself until it freezes out or goes dormant. Here kale is a two crop wonder, coming back in the spring with flower buds so tender you quit planting spring broccoli 😉 Dehydrating it too is a good way to store the nutritious greens for crumbling and adding to foods in the winter.

  8. Chris permalink
    September 3, 2013 5:08 pm

    Too funny! And you even work while watching tv!
    How old is your daughter and does she have a bf? I have a handsome 27 yr. old son who is unattached and needs a lovely young woman to meet! 🙂
    He would kill me if he knew I told you that! Ha!

  9. Jack permalink
    September 3, 2013 6:07 pm

    How exactly do I roast tomatoes and what do you use them for ? Soup and stew or what ? Sorry for my ignorance but Im new at this .

    • September 4, 2013 4:53 am

      Jack, I use a big roasting pan, oven at 400F or so, put a little olive oil in the bottom of the pan, add halved tomatoes face down one layer thick, throw in some garlic cloves, a little chopped onion and herbs of your choice depending on what you want to use your “sauce” for, drizzle on a little more olive oil, and maybe a bit of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and pop in the oven. Roast until the a few of the tops are brownish or almost black, half hour – hour depending on the juiciness of the tomatoes or how thick you want the end produst. Or you can do a slower oven and roast for a longer time depending how much you want to watch the stove. Cool, and pluck off skins if you wish, or run the whole thing through a food mill that will remove the skins and seeds, freeze in containers in the size you will want for your recipes. This mix is great as a soup base, tomato sauce, filling etc. If you need to thicken it further, a crock pot works great and won’t scorch or require watching.

  10. akaangrywhiteman permalink
    September 3, 2013 6:50 pm

    I tried this this year, wonderful results, and the flavors certainly beat that old boiled stuff people have made for eons. I know it’s eons, because I can remember waiting for tomatoes to boil down when I was a kid. A long, long time ago. 😉

  11. Mich permalink
    September 4, 2013 12:32 am

    I love roasted tomatoes 🙂 but am still waiting for the main glut of my crop to ripen and that’s in a greenhouse! Hurry up toms.

  12. Chris permalink
    September 4, 2013 4:13 am

    Dang it! 🙂

  13. September 4, 2013 4:24 am

    Thanks to you I tried roasting tomatoes this year and it’s going well. But wasn’t able to find your previous posts, so glad to see you mentioning this wonderful technique again. I hadn’t thought of putting herbs right in the roasting pan with them, and have to ask what temp do you roast at and for about how long? I’ve been halving my toms face down on cookie sheets under the broiler until skins are spotted with char, then scooping them out of most of the watery liquid into the food mill, which I love (hate to remove skins). Hadn’t thought about using the big roasting pan with other stuff in it.

    • September 4, 2013 5:06 am

      TD, it’s toss-up for me about what’s worse, cleaning the food mill or blanching to take the skins off. I usually roast all day and get bowls of roasted tomatoes and then I do the food mill thing. Letting all those herbs steep in the juice all day in the bowls adds even more flavor. See my comment on Jack’s question above for more detail about roasting times. Although, you’ll understand this – I try to time my roasting so I can shut the oven off when I go to move cows, so the tomatoes are cooking and starting to reduce at about 400F, I swap places with the pans, and turn the oven off, skip off to the cows, do my fencing and get my cow fix, and when I come back to reality (kitchen)the tomatoes are ready to take out of the oven, and I can start another couple pans worth. My juicy tomatoes become soup, and the ones with more solids become paste or base for salsa.

  14. Sheila Z permalink
    September 4, 2013 11:23 am

    I’ve been so lazy that I leave the skins on and use a stick blender on the roasted tomatoes. Makes a sauce I love. The only thing I pull out before blending is the leggy stems of the herbs. They like to wind up in the stick blender and then I have to stop and clean them out, so it’s easier to just remove the stalks before blending. Once it’s blended up you would never know the skins are still in there. If I want some texture in the sauce I add in some roasted chunks of eggplant or other roasted veggies.

  15. Kristin permalink
    September 4, 2013 3:18 pm

    Was that article on roasting tomatoes 10 years ago in Organic Gardening? If so, I read it too. It was more than 10 years ago though, I’m sorry to say! Try 5 or 16 years.

    • September 5, 2013 4:53 am

      Kristin, I missed that one, it was in our local paper when they used to have a good preserving column. I have it somewhere, and it may have been longer than 10 years…unfortunately the local paper had a change in management (I think) and started printing untimely preserving articles, like strawberry jam recipes in September and pickle recipes in November…hello this is Portland, land of seasonal eating and too many farmers markets. Not many folks are seeing quantities of those products in the fall, but what the heck if you want to make strawberry jam in September it’s OK because we sure wouldn’t want anybody to be inconvenienced or told no. Anyway it was a good article back in the day.

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