We can remember when roasted tomatoes listed as an ingredient in a recipe would have sent cooks scurrying to their cookbooks for an explanation. “Roast’’ and “tomato” were not words they were used to hearing in the same sentence.
Even if they were compatible, they sounded like something best left in the hands of professional chefs. As it turns out, roasting tomatoes is so simple it can barely be called “cooking.” If you can cut tomatoes in half, arrange the pieces comfortably in a baking pan, and drizzle them with a little oil, you can roast tomatoes.
Still, for cooks who are in the habit of steaming and stir-frying vegetables, we were curious about what we might be missing. For more about roasting, we went to Shirley O. Corriher, a culinary guru who has spent years studying the ins-and-outs of cooking. In her book CookWise (Morrow, 1997), Corriher explains that when vegetables are roasted, the liquid released by their cells immediately evaporates, leaving behind a deliciously concentrated flavor.
Add roasted tomatoes to salads and pizzas, toss with in pasta, or serve on top of bruschetta. Also try them right out of the oven, eased onto individual plates and sprinkled with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Of course, roasting tomatoes is a natural for the peak of the tomato season, but even in the dead of winter, when decent tomatoes seem impossible to find, roasting is the way to go.
By Jean Kressy, a food writer in Ashburnam, Mass.