While you’re puttering around your house this weekend, tuck a pan of tomatoes in the oven, come back several hours later, and have a peak. They will add a whole new dimension of flavour to your appetizer.
By Valerie Harrison
While you’re puttering around your house this weekend, tuck a pan of tomatoes in the oven, come back several hours later, and have a peak. They will add a whole new dimension of flavour to your appetizer! Not only does slow-roasting concentrate and caramelize the intense flavour of cherry tomatoes, but it also gives them a meatier, more robust texture. The roasted tomatoes become versatile ingredients, perfect for tossing into pasta or salads, layering on sandwiches, or just using as a terrific side dish for grilled or roasted meats. Of course they are perfect served with grilled bread with some grilled brie oozing over each and every nook and cranny. I can’t guarantee you will not have any left over so roast a double batch. They keep in the refrigerator for a week (or longer, if you can manage not to eat them all first), and you can freeze them, too. A bonus is the lovely tomato-infused olive oil left over after roasting; drizzle it over grilled vegetables or on the crusty bread for this appetizer, or use it in a vinaigrette.
The technique is simple…spread them in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and herbs, and coat generously in olive oil. Roast slowly until the tomatoes are a deep, rich brown and very collapsed. You can certainly use this method this time of year on less-than-ripe tomatoes that you would otherwise use as ping pong balls. As the days get longer more and more local garden produce is becoming available but we may need to wait just a little longer for sun-ripened tomatoes. Be patient and roast your babies instead. They will remind you of sun-kissed summer days to come, and they will have intense flavour perfect for this appetizer.
If you’re looking for a new grilling idea for cheese, walk the plank! I found some very inexpensive cedar, maple and alderwood planks at a local grocery store each of which imparts their own unique, delicious smoky flavour. Plank grilling infuses flavour and requires little supervision, so you can spend more time with guests and the rest of the family. For this recipe you can use one large brie for one communal appetizer or individial brie for a personal touch for each guest. Serve with garlic ciabatta bread and top all with roasted tomatoes and your company will adore you.
Grilled Brie and Ciabbata Topped with Sunblushed Tomatoes
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh chilies
- 6 mini wheels or three 4.5 oz wheels of brie cheese, at room temperature
- cedar plank
- 1 Baguette (French Bread), pide (flat Turkish bread) or ciabatta loaf
- 2 large cloves garlic, peeled
- Sublushed tomatoes, recipe follows
1. Soak an untreated cedar plank (available at grocery, cookware and hardware stores) in water overnight. Preheat the grill to high and place the wet plank on the grate. Heat the plank until smoking and burning on the bottom at the edges, about 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the olive oil in a large bowl with the lemon zest, garlic and chilies. Add cheeses to the bowl and coat with the mixture. Let stand for 15 minutes.
3. Slice the baguette, pide or ciabatta and toast pieces over a barbecue grill rack. As they are done rub them, one at a time, with a whole garlic clove. Season with a little sea salt, then stack them one on top of the other and set aside.
4. Arrange the cheeses on top of the plank. Drizzle with any remaining marinade. Cover the grill and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until the cheeses are swollen and ready to burst. Remove the plank from the grill using tongs and let stand for 5 minutes. Serve the cheeses on the plank with grilled ciabata. To eat, make a shallow cut on top of cheese and party peel back skin. Dunk bread in melted cheese and go for it! Serve with Sunblushed tomatoes
*Tip: If grilling isn’t possible, lay cheese on a parchment-lined tray. Bake in a preheated 375?F oven for 3 to 5 minutes.
makes about 1 cup (can easily be multiplied, though)
- 250g (1/2 lb) fresh cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/8 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
1. In early morning, reheat your oven to its top temperature. Remove the stems from the tomatoes and cut larger ones in half along their equator. Place cut side up in an ovenproof dish.
2. Mix together the salt, thyme, oregano and sugar and sprinkle over the top of the tomatoes. Drizzle over the olive oil and put in the oven.
3. Immediately, turn the heat down to somewhere in the region of 165-200°F. This isn’t an exact science, and will depend on how long you want to wait for your tomatoes… the lower the temperature, the longer it will take but more flavourful they will be.
4. Cook for 2-3 hours, until the tomatoes are soft and fragrant. They should lose their raw look, but not be charred. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Valerie is the author of More Than Burnt Toast living in British Columbia, Canada. Join Valerie as she explores the worlds cuisine using local and sustainable ingredients found in the Pacific Northwest. Every day we should be inspired and excited about what we are eating even if it just means making use of a wonderful find at our local farmers market.