In a recent article for the New York Times, Melissa Clark offered a belly-full of ideas for making the best of the late-summer tomato bounty. I've tried to link the article, but it is now available only to those willing to shell out $4.95. Her recipes might just be worth the asking price, especially for anyone laboring under a pound or two of quickly softening tomatoes. Ms. Clark's recipes are simple, but sparkle with more imagination than I can muster myself these days come 6:30 when I wander into my hot kitchen, rummage through the vegetables spilling out of the refrigerator crisper drawer, and set to making yet another grilled veggie pasta salad. This article might just be worth the asking price, especially for anyone laboring under a pound or two of quickly softening tomatoes.
A tomato bounty is the last thing a tomato lover would complain about. And, my caprese-salad eating lips are not complaining. But, I have found myself thumbing cookbooks and trolling websites in search of tomato recipes to make me feel like I celebrated -- rather than simply managed to consume -- this season's crop. Ms. Clark's recipe for tomato confit, a more summery moniker for oven-roasted tomatoes, roused me from my tomato routine. Her suggestions for how to serve them -- over warm polenta, or ricotta-smeared crostini -- had me raiding my own plants, my CSA farm box, and eventually produce section of Giant Eagle. I think I've roasted 8 pounds of cherry tomatoes over the last two weeks. Is this late-summer sacrilege? Isn't this the season for hymning the simple perfection of a raw tomato?
Well, I'm shaking off my scruples. Heaven may taste like a ruby-ripe tomato plucked from the vine, but it's no sin to cook summer tomatoes. In fact, I'm starting to think heaven tastes like a small pizza, its crust so thin it shatters when bitten, topped with a scattering of charred cherry tomatoes. There are more ways than one to honor the tomato season and keep it holy.
My bounty of oven roasted tomatoes gave me the initiative to shake up the margherita pizza cycle I'd been happily perpetuating all summer. I switched out the mozzarella for ricotta, the basil for mint, and tossed on a few pine nuts.
And for the crust ... There was a time when I made my own pizza dough. Then, during a heatwave, I discovered the convenience of store-bought pizza dough and have rarely looked back. Guided by a recent edition of Lynn Rossetto Kasper's Splendid Table newsletter, I found a stash of thin crusts in my refrigerator packaged under the label,"flour tortillas." Cook your summer tomatoes. Borrow your pizza crusts from burrito parts. This might be gastronomic sacrilege, but I made it, I tasted it, and it was good.
Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Makes more than enough for four pizzas. Any extra tomatoes (I somehow never have any) can be refrigerated for a few days. Adapted from Melissa Clark's article in the New York Times.
For roasted tomatoes:
3 cups ripe cherry or grape tomatoes
5 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
generous pinch crushed red pepper flakes
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread tomatoes and garlic out on baking sheet. Drizzle with 1/4 cup oil, add crushed red pepper, a large pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper. Bake until tomatoes are wrinkled, fragrant, and a bit blackened, about 35 minutes, shaking pan once or twice. Transfer tomato pan to a rack to cool. Discard garlic.
Roasted Cherry Tomato Tortilla Pizzas
Makes 4 8-inch pizzas. Recipe inspired by Jacques Pepin via Lynn Rossetto Kasper's weekly newsletter from The Splendid Table.
4 8-inch flour tortillas
extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
1 container good quality ricotta cheese
1/4 cup mint leaves, finely torn
fine zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Preheat the oven to 500°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Drizzle some olive oil on parchment paper, and press tortillas in the oil to coat them well on one side, and then turn them over, so they are oiled on the other side.
In a small bowl, mix ricotta with a few drizzles of olive oil, coarse salt and pepper. Divide ricotta among the 4 tortillas and spread it thinly with a spatula.
Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until puffed and crisp. Divide roasted tomatoes among tortillas and continue to bake for a few minutes until tomatoes are heated through. Let the pizzas rest out of the oven for a couple of minutes, and then sprinkle with 1/4 cup mint. Scatter some pine nuts and lemon zest over each pizza. Cut into quarters and serve.