Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

The tomatoes have been fabulous this year.  One way to make the most of them is to roast them in a low oven for a few hours. They become sweet red gems that are a delicious side dish or can be used in a variety of other more complex dishes.   I like to use plum tomatoes for roasting, but roasted cherry tomatoes are also delicious.  I cut the plum tomatoes in half, toss them with salt and pepper and sometimes a little sugar if the tomatoes are not very sweet, then put them cut-side down on a baking sheet.  Combine olive oil with fresh basil, oregano or thyme, drizzle over the tomatoes and roast them for a couple of hours at 275°.  Sometimes I include minced garlic.  I like to roast at least two pounds of tomatoes at a time, and use them in a variety of dishes during the week.  They are very good combined with Kalamata olives, capers and feta cheese as a topping for pasta, for instance.

One of my favorite ways to use slow-roasted tomatoes is in this recipe for Wild Salmon with Pearl Couscous, Slow-roasted Tomatoes and Lemon-Oregano Oil.  The lemon-oregano oil that is made from the oil after roasting the tomatoes has a wonderful flavor that jazzes up the salmon and couscous, a sublime combination with the roasted tomatoes.

The full recipe for the salmon, couscous, tomatoes and oil sounds like it has a lot of components, but, really, the focus of preparation is on the tomatoes and accompanying oil, which are prepared ahead of time.  Cooking the salmon and pearl couscous takes about 20 minutes and is very straight-forward.  I prefer wild King salmon (my favorite fish!) for this dish.

Wild Salmon with Pearl Couscous, Slow-roasted Tomatoes and Lemon-Oregano Oil, from Gourmet, April 2005

In adapting this recipe, I have doubled the quantity of tomatoes, for extras, but halved the amount of couscous and salmon, for 3 servings.  This does make a great dish for company though, if you choose to make more!

Roasted tomatoes and lemon-oregano oil:

2 pounds plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 ½ teaspoons sugar (a little more if the tomatoes are not fully ripe)
1  teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, put through a garlic press
about 20 fresh basil leaves
about 20 fresh oregano leaves, plus ¼ cup finely chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon zest, removed in strips with a vegetable peeler and finely minced
4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice


1 ½ teaspoons olive oil
1 cup pearl (Israeli) couscous
1 1/3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth (or water)
pinch of salt

3 6-oz pieces wild salmon fillet with skin
1 teaspoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and quartered lengthwise

before roasting

Slow-roasted tomatoes:
Preheat the oven to 275°.  Combine the tomatoes with the sugar, salt, and pepper and place the tomatoes, cut sides down, on a baking sheet with sides. (If you make fewer tomatoes, use a smaller baking pan).  Heat the olive oils in a skillet over moderate heat, then add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes.  Stir in the basil and oregano leaves, and remove from the heat.  Pour the oil over the tomatoes, and put the pan in the oven.  Roast the tomatoes for about 2 hours, until very tender.  The tomatoes can be prepared up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated in oil. (They should be at room temperature when the couscous and salmon are prepared).

Transfer tomatoes with a slotted spatula to a plate, leaving the oil behind.  Pour the oil through a fine-meshed sieve into a small bowl.  Stir in the chopped oregano, lemon zest and juice and ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  The lemon-oregano oil is best on the same day it is made, but can be used for several days.  (It is good with other vegetables and with pasta).

Pearl Couscous:
Heat  a teaspoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan, then add the couscous and stir.  Toast the couscous, stirring occasionally until pale golden, about 4 minutes.  Then add broth or water and a pinch of salt and simmer, covered, for about 12 minutes.  The liquid should be absorbed and the couscous al dente.  Remove the pan from the heat and let stand, with the lid on, for about 10 minutes.  Stir in a tablespoon of the lemon-oregano oil, and season with salt.  Roast the salmon while the couscous stands.

The oven rack should be in the upper third of the oven for roasting the salmon.  Preheat the oven to 475°.  Place the fish, skin sides down, on a baking pan.  Drizzle with olive oil, rubbing it over the fillets, and add a bit of salt to each.  Roast the salmon until just cooked through, about 12 minutes or a little longer. Remove the salmon from the pan with a spatula, leaving the skin behind.

To serve:  Put a serving of couscous on the plate, and place a piece of salmon on the couscous.  Put 2 tomato halves on the plate, then top the salmon with some of the Kalamata olives and drizzle with lemon-oregano oil.

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