Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Roasted Tomato Puree

Last Saturday I purchased some wrinkly Roma tomatoes for 75¢ a pound. They were neither moldy nor rotten, just a little past their prime and I had a specific use in mind.

I had the oven going on Monday morning for the apple muffins and, after they were done, I bumped up the heat a bit to roast the Romas. I was happy to do this, for the heat. I was still resisting turning on the furnace in our house. I’m not a totally frugal person, but we do have an old house with large windows and high ceilings and, even though the thermostat is set at around 65ºF in the daytime during the winter, I wait as long as possible to start those high heating bills rolling in.

Roasting tomatoes is a perfect way to use those which are not fresh enough to be used in salads, or even in cooked recipes. This technique concentrates their flavor and gives them a wonderful “roasted” taste as well. The final product is a thick paste, just a little thinner than commercial tomato paste, which is perfect to add to soups, stews, and gravies for an incredible punch of tomato flavor. I purchased a dozen medium sized ones and they produced about a cup of puree.

The Roma variety are particularly suited to this technique ad they are more “meaty” than the other varieties. I have used regular tomatoes, though, but I roughly chop them then drain in a strainer for a half hour or so in order to eliminate the excess moisture.

I have to apologize for the imprecise amount of tomatoes. I had thought that my receipt would show the weight of the tomatoes, so I didn’t bother to weigh them before cooking, but now I cannot locate the receipt.

Now, when I make this I do not add anything other than olive oil, salt, and pepper; I want the flavor of the tomatoes to shine through.

Vicci’s Roasted Tomato Puree

12 medium Roma tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the pan

freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt, to taste

Heat oven to 450ºF. Lightly coat a baking pan with olive oil. Remove the stems from the Roma tomatoes and quarter. Place, skin side down, on the baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper (don’t use too much, you can always add more after making the puree).

Roast for 25-35 minutes, occasionally shaking the pan gently, or until very soft (the skins will begin to brown a little but do not allow them to burn).

Remove from oven and cool. Transfer the tomatoes to a blender or small food processor (also scrape any juices or excess oil from the pan and add to the tomatoes). Puree until smooth. If necessary, add a little more olive oil to improve consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Store for up to a week in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator, or for longer storage, place

1 tablespoon portions in an empty ice cube tray and freeze; pop out the cubes and store in a plastic freezer container or bag.

To use, add to soups, stews, or gravy starting with one tablespoon and increasing amount as desired.

Also, a quick and quite good tomato soup can be made by using a cup of vegetable stock, 2 tablespoons of puree, about a half teaspoon of sugar, some basil, and a dash of cayenne.

Now, I have to admit that on Monday evening I finally caved in and turned up the thermostat. There's only so much self-sacrifice I can handle, and waking in a 56-degree bedroom was beginning to lose its novelty...