Today’s Buffalo News has the first of a series of food columns I’ve been asked to write. Called “Elements,” they’re supposed to be small, simple introductions to ingredients, spices, herbs or anything else that contributes to a satisfying table. A few paragraphs and a recipe, appearing every two weeks on Page 4 of the Sunday Spotlight section.
The first installment is on grape tomatoes, and I contribute a recipe I’ve been making for years – grape tomato confit. (Purists may howl that it’s wrong to use “confit” to describe something besides meat slow-simmered in its own fat, and they have a point. But the richness and concentrated potency of the resulting crimson orbs helped me get over the shame.)
I’ll admit also that it’s a bit fiddly. Getting the skins off these little fellows is more than I normally do on the fussy prep meter, what with my pudgy, kielbasa-like fingers. Fortunately, my 7-year-old, Zoe, has the patience to help.
The ends justify the means. Trust me. Give the little fellows a nick (just through the skin, not into the seeds) and the skin will split in boiling water. Keep a sharp eye, and get them right into the ice bath, or they’ll get mushy in a minute. Get it right, and most of them will slip right off.
After that it’s easy peasey. Like a raisin, they shrivel as water leaves, and their fruitiness concentrates. I like them on crostini or bruschetta with sheep’s milk feta, but lots of cheeses would sing along.
They’d make lovely pasta, too, but I’d dress my pasta with the tomato oil and place the tomatoes on top, as they’re delicate and won’t hold up to much roughhousing. But heck, they taste just the same squished, so go ahead if you want.
Grape tomato confit
1 quart grape tomatoes, skins nicked
1 cup olive oil
5 or more cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon or more fresh rosemary, or other herbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Blanch tomatoes until skins start to crack, about 30 seconds. Drain swiftly and shock in ice water. Peel tomatoes carefully. Toss with oil, garlic and herbs in small baking dish, and salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 400 degrees, stirring gently every 10 minutes, or the top ones will blacken. After about 40 minutes, when the tomatoes resemble large red raisins, remove and let cool.
I should also mention that I no longer make these only one quart at a time, because I got tired of the complaints. You only need about a cup and a half of oil, or a little less, to do two quarts’ worth, but be vigilant about timely stirring.