In Season: Summer Tomatoes

This year I have a glut of tomatoes. I have not always been so lucky. Last year we had an incredibly wet summer, leaving me with a few watery tomatoes and a lot of frustration. So this year, we did our planting on the early side, and crossed our fingers for a drier summer.

The tomatoes were slow to ripen. There seemed to be handfuls of staunchly green fruit on the vine. Then, slowly, the tomatoes turned from green to orange and finally to red. And then they just kept going. Each day I would go out to the garden, and pick a few more. We have eaten more tomato salads than I care to mention. We have had freshly crushed tomatoes on top of broiled fish. We ate seafood stew with simmered tomatoes. And we had one of my favorites—tomato confit.

The beginning of this week was a warm one in the Northeast. My tomatoes were literally bursting from the heat. Fissures were erupting, cracking the skins and exposing the flesh to the summer sun. Not one to simply toss a less than perfect specimen, I took advantage of the cracks, peeled all of the tomatoes, and made confit.

A confit is simply a food that has been cooked in fat—in this case olive oil. Baked slowly, the tomatoes concentrate, letting off their sweet juices. What you are left with is a tomatoey, garlicky, mess of delicious olive oil. The confit can be eaten spooned on top of pasta, or you dip good, crusty bread in it. It can also be jarred, and kept in the refrigerator for about six weeks—not that it will last that long.

Tomato Confit

There is no recipe to speak of for this dish. It can be made in small batches, or large roasting pans. Here are the general instructions.

salt and pepper
olive oil

Peel the tomatoes. With the tip of a knife, slice a small, shallow "x" through the bottom of the tomatoes. The cuts should go just through the skin. Drop the tomatoes into boiling water. After a few seconds, the skins will begin to blister. Fish the tomatoes out of the boiling water, and plunge them into an ice water bath. The skins will slip off. Core each tomato. If you have large tomatoes, slice them in half in order to fit in a shallow baking pan.

Arrange the tomatoes tightly into the pan, cut side down. Peel a few cloves of garlic and slice in half. Place them in between some of the tomatoes. Pluck a few basil leaves off of the stalk, and wedge in between the tomatoes. Season well with salt and pepper. Cover the tomatoes with olive oil until the oil comes approximately halfway up the sides of the tomatoes.

Bake in a 325° oven for one-and-a-half to two hours, or until the top of the tomatoes begin to color. The tomatoes will have let off their juice, and the pan will be full of both concentrated tomato juice and olive oil.

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