One boiling hot afternoon while the two older kids were at camp, I took the two younger ones to Barnes and Noble to do some book reading in the icy air conditioning. (It was cold, brrrr cold. I was actually relieved to get my goose-bumped skin back into the sunshine.)
Taking my kids to B&N doesn’t mean that I read to them, no, no, no, no. It means that we each grab a stack of books, find a corner, and sink into our own personal cloud of new-book smells. It’s very nice. (The littlest did have trouble just reading for all that time, but B&N thoughtfully has that Tank the Thomas—or Thomas the Tank, whatever—train set and lots of annoying, battery-powered educational toys for little kids to play with. His biggest fascination, though, was arranging and rearranging the boxes of stuffed animals…until I told him to stop.)
On my way back to the children’s section I picked up several cookbooks (I’m obsessed, yes), one of which was Heidi Swanson’s new book. I jotted down a couple recipes that caught my eye, but so far I’ve only made one: the caramelized cherry tomatoes. I haven’t been able to move beyond it yet.
I have a well-documented, long-lasting, and steamy relationship with roasted tomatoes. Some might even call it a love affair. Roasted tomatoes and I have messed around together in the following ways:
1. Romas roasted and then frozen for winter lunches of grilled cheese, pesto, and roasted tomato sandwiches.
2. Paste tomatoes quick roasted for a luscious canned tomato sauce.
3. Tomato bread pudding, which is just a vehicle for more roasted tomatoes. A vehicle that’s also loaded down with cream, cheese, herbs, garlic, and bread, swoon.
4. Oh yes, and the infamous roasted cherry tomato and summer squash pasta.
So considering that sultry history, I wasn’t sure if Heidi’s caramelized cherry tomatoes would offer anything new for my roasted tomato jaded self.
But, oh wondrous surprise, they did.
These cherry tomatoes are like candy, all sweet and juicy and slightly sticky-chewy around their caramelized edges. I ate them like I eat candy, too—in quick succession and way too many. And then I felt kind of like I do after I eat too much candy: sick to my tummy-wummy.
So treat these treats like treats, hear? Consumed correctly, they are guaranteed to make your life immeasurably sweeter. Especially when plopped into grilled cheese sandwiches, on crackers spread with cream cheese, or into bowls filled with pesto-y pasta and chopped boiled eggs.
That last option was a real winner (and, if I’m being honest, the only one I’ve actually tried). I didn’t follow any recipe for the pesto and it was splendid: a food processor full of fresh basil, a couple cloves of garlic, a hunk of butter, some Parmesan, S&P, and a drizzle of olive oil to smooth it all out. No nuts or nothing, and as a result the flecks of basil were larger and the finished dish was more mellow. So lovely.
Caramelized Cherry Tomatoes
Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s book Super Natural Every Day
4 cups cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 scant teaspoon salt
Toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Dump everything into a sided baking dish and roast at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, watching closely to make sure they don’t burn (though they should get slightly blackened).
Allow the caramelized tomatoes to cool a little before scraping the pan’s contents into a jar and storing in the refrigerator. (You may add more olive oil to the jar if you wish, says Heidi, though I never needed to.)
This same time, years previous: down in the peach pits