Monday, December 10, 2012

One Great . . . winter tomato

I'm a salad girl, happy to fill out any meal plan by simply jotting " . . . and salad."

The green part of the salad is easy all year: Our climate is so temperate that I get locally grown lettuce right through the winter from several farmers.

But salad isn't made by lettuce alone. So I branch out in winter, looking for other things to add. Radishes are sometimes around. Carrots are possible, although I find it hard settling on the right way to cut them: Grated isn't substantial enough, slices can be too substantial. Roasted and chilled works better. Toasted nuts, dried fruit, even orange segments all get salad duty.

What's difficult, though, is coming up with some version of tomatoes. I refuse to give in to the temptation of winter tomatoes. No matter how red they are, they just don't work for me.

Recently, I got the idea to play with roasting canned tomatoes and using them as a cold salad ingredient. There are plenty of recipes for boosting the flavor of canned tomatoes by roasting them, but those are mostly used as pasta ingredients. I wanted something more salad-like, something with a little sweetness and tanginess. I hit on this.

We like it so much, we've even put tablespoons of it on sandwiches and hamburgers. They don't taste like fresh tomatoes, but they have more flavor than canned tomatoes. Maybe they'll help you hang on until next summer.

Sweet and Tangy  Tomatoes

1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

DRAIN the juice from the tomatoes and set aside. (You can discard it, or refrigerate it and use it for pasta sauces or soups.) Place the tomatoes in a single layer in an 8-inch baking dish or pan.

SPRINKLE the brown sugar over the tomatoes, then sprinkle with the balsamic vinegar and the salt. Drizzle with the olive oil. Place in a 350-degree oven for about 1 hour, until they're browned in spots.

REMOVE from oven and cool. Pack into a jar or airtight container with any accumulated cooking juice and refrigerate. Chop up into salads, add to pasta dishes or use as a sandwich topping. Keeps a couple of weeks.

YIELD: About 2 cups.