O, Tomato

I have only so much to say about raw tomatoes. Sometimes they taste great, sometimes they taste lousy – the slime and the juice and the seeds and the pith can sometimes get the best of a raw tomato. Often, their quality almost solely depends on the other flavors that they are dressed with.

But O, how I can sing about cooked tomatoes, most notably roasted tomatoes. The simplest dish there is, roasting intensifies and deepens the tomato flavor while also ridding it of some of that ungainly extra liquid that sometimes befalls raw tomatoes. The tomato flavor quickly becomes sharp and rich and will even now bring out flavors in other ingredients, instead of relying on them. Whether in a salad, in a sauce, on a sandwich, on toast, with cheese, in soup, over fish, or just plain, the flavor of these tomatoes can make a meal and make all the other ingredients better too. For example, I can barely think of a cheese that wouldn't be absolutely terrific with roasted tomatoes. Maybe string or whiz.

Besides being so tasty and versatile, the tomatoes are actually healthier when cooked than they are in their raw form. There is many times as much lycopene – the tomato's most beneficial component – in cooked tomatoes than there is in raw tomatoes.

Finally there is the simplicity I alluded to. Roasted tomatoes require little to no seasoning, but come out absolutely best with a vinaigrette-like decomposition in the seasoning. I just sprinkle a little kosher salt, some black pepper, a little extra virgin olive oil and some red or white wine vinegar over a bunch of tomato slices or halves on a baking sheet. It doesn't matter how much, as long as all the tomatoes get some. Applying a little extra can't hurt, as it makes for some delicious juices to drizzle over at the end. I roast them in the oven for 10-12 minutes at 400 degrees and get the most tender, flavorful tomatoes. I could just eat a plate for dinner they are so good. Actually, ask Julia. The other day I did just eat some whole wheat pasta and half a plate of roasted tomatoes for dinner. I would do it again tonight without hesitation. That's how good these little (roasted) wonders are.

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