Here at the House of Yum we have gone from being the House of Pattypan to the House of Tomatoes! Yes, at last my precious darlings have come “on” and tomatoes have been ripening like nobody’s business. I have been obsessed with organic heirloom tomatoes ever since I first discovered Cynthia’s amazing Love Apple Farm and the gorgeous varieties she sells and teaches people how to grow. I never knew tomatoes could be so beautiful and interesting before I came to live in California. Of course, now heirloom tomatoes are at every farmer’s market and even available at chain grocery stores like Safeway, but that certainly wasn’t the case when I was a child or even a young adult. Anyway, I’d never had a chance to grow them properly until we got our first house, although I gave it a valiant try on a few sunny balconies. Those balcony tomatoes grew pretty well, actually, when I followed my tomato guru,Cynthia, and her instructions properly and babied them along. They grew like mutant tomato weeds, actually, and reached high above my head to grab onto our apartment roof- go tomatoes, go! But once we got our house and its front and back yards with real dirt (yes, we bought the house for the yards… and the kitchen) we were ready to take tomato growing seriously. Cynthia advises her students that those wimpy tomato cages you find at the nursery and discount store are not remotely adequate for supporting a truly healthy, happy heirloom tomato. She has us plant the tomato quite deep in the ground to let it develop a massive root structure, and when you do this, the tomato plant tends to grow up-up-up as well as down. We’re talking 10 feet plants or taller here, folks. So you need a REAL tomato cage. Cynthia’s preference for tomato cages is in cement reinforcing wire. What? Yes, you heard me. But guess what? If you want the real stuff that is 10 feet high (and we did) in our area, we had to buy 200 feet of the stuff. *gulp* Do you have any idea how heavy that is? We found out when we stuffed it into our amazing transformer-car, the YUM Fit, by pushing down every seat possible to make a flat platform for the stuff. Our car suspension gulped and rocked a bit, let me tell you. Oh, and that stuff isn’t cheap either. What can I say, this tomato growing thing is an obsession. Hopefully we will be able to use it over the years… and maybe open our shed to sell the stuff to our neighbors in an illicit tomato support operation. So we dutifully assembled our tomato cages, which required gloves and wire cutters. I felt pretty cool, chopping through concrete reinforcing wire like butter with my snippers. The DH looked pretty hot, too, in his workman’s gloves and outdoorsy Colorado-native apparel.
But most of all, it was about the tomatoes. Ah the things we do for love. So fast-forward a slow, cool summer. My tomatoes grew, but waiting for them to ripen in this unseasonably cool summer was agony. And then- the first marmanade turned red. And next… the hippie zebra coughed up a representative. And all of a sudden, we were swimming in tomatoes.
I took up canning for the first time in my life, and canned some beautiful jars of heirlooms in their own juices.
Besides the medium and large tomatoes (Japanese Oxheart, Russian 117, Hippie Zebra, Costralee, Berkeley Tie Dye, Marmande, Costoluto, and the gorgeous Grandma Josie) we also planted two baby tomato plants- the Black Cherry and Yellow Pear. To my delight, Toddler Yum is enamoured of the Yellow Pear and loves to pick them off the vine one by one and pop them in her mouth. She doesn’t discriminate between yellow and green, so unless I want her to eat the green, puckery ones, I have to help guide her in the harvest. Yesterday I watched a toddler dance where she would pick one (with Mommy’s help), run back to the stoop, sit down and shove the juicy tomato into her mouth until her cheeks were puffed out like a squirrel, and then get up to pick another one. Rinse, repeat.
Much as I love these baby tomatoes fresh, one can only eat so many before you start to feel like you are turning into a tomato. In previous years, I’d tried slow-roasting tomatoes and was impressed by the quality of flavor and how this savory fruit transforms into a sweet, caramelized bite of heaven on slow-roasting. So with all these adorable baby darlings, I had to try slow roasting them. I found Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for slow-roasted tomatoes and tried my own variation. I could eat these babies like candy. In fact, I’d rather have them than candy. The only down-side is that this will tie up your oven for hours, and warm the house up a bit. But, I’m happy to suffer a little for the reward of these sweet little treats. I like to combine two mini-tomato varieties so you get the color contrast. Beautiful!
I could eat them plain by the bowlful, but I was intrigued by Deb’s casual comment about using these tomatoes in a white bean salad with fresh basil. YES! I thought, and pulled out a can of white beans post-haste. But I couldn’t just stop there. Inspired by our upcoming planned trip to Israel, I wanted to put a bit of a middle-eastern slant on things. I had a lovely bottle of lime olive oil and a new herb blend called sabzi (intended for use in koofteh a.k.a. meatballs) that I’ve been obsessed putting on everything EXCEPT meat, and I thought they would add a lovely touch to the recipe. I’ve also been obsessed with my herbamare salt blend, thanks to Ali of Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen and our friend Kelly of Spunky Coconut. I mixed it all together, thought it needed a touch of color and sprinkled a little paprika. Whalah, a beautiful and healthy salad with all the addicting qualities of slow-roasted tomatoes but with protein to boot. Nice. The DH and I gobbled it up and wanted more. If only I had more white beans! Time to stock up. I’ve made 3 or 4 batches of these slow roasted tomatoes and am planning on freezing some so I can enjoy this taste of summer in the heart of winter when the ae nemic tomatoes in the supermarket make me want to cry. Besides being wonderful in this salad, they are great on pasta, on gluten-free focaccia, on crackers, and I bet as Deb suggests they would be divine on gluten-free bagels with cream cheese. Who needs lox when you have slow-roasted tomatoes?
*Note: Adopt a Gluten-free Blogger will be open for sign-ups on September 15th as we will be overseas in early September
Slow Roasted Tomato White Bean Salad
1/3 to 1/2 cup slow roasted baby tomatoes halves*
2 cups or 1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
lime olive oil (or lemon olive oil, or plain), for drizzling
2 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
dried sabzikoofteh herb blend (savory, parsley, dill, leek)**
herbamare or your favorite salt
smoked spanish paprika, regular paprika, cayenne or chipotle powder
Gently fold together your roasted baby tomato halves with the white beans and drizzle with lime olive oil. Toss some fresh basil and dried herb blend on top and mix it in to evenly coat the salad. Sprinkle top with herbamare (if needed) and a little paprika for garnish.
*To roast baby tomatoes, Preheat oven to 225F. Prepare a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice your tomatoes in half. I used yellow pear and black cherry tomatoes; yum! Place halves on parchment paper with the “cup” facing up so the tomato holds in its yummy juices. Drizzle with olive oil or grapeseed oil. Toss some fresh herbs on top. I like thyme and marjoram, but also usually throw on some sage and basil if I’m feeling crazy. . Sprinkle lightly with salt. Slow cook tomatoes for at least 3 hours. Don’t dry the little darlings out too much; you want them to still be moist and tender, not dehydrated chips of tomato. If your baby tomatoes are large, you may wish to cook for up to 5 hours. Remove from oven, let cool, and place in a tupperware, drizzling them with a little additional olive oil to store. I assume you will taste a few. Try not to gobble them all up on the spot. This is definitely a temptation.
**I buy this at a Middle Eastern market, specifically Caron Intl. Food Market in Sunnyvale. If you can’t find it in your area, you can blend your own and use dried chives or dried onion instead of the leek OR just use your favorite green dill spice mix.
I served this with an heirloom baked potato drizzled in wonderful tahini from a Middle Eastern Market, seasoned with herbamare and more sabzikoofteh. Delish!