Molly’s Slow Roasted Tomatoes (Pomodori al Forno)

September 24, 2008 | By | COMMENTS

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A journey of a thousand miles may begin with one step, but a recipe of several steps begins with precisely 2,408 miles. Specifically: the distance from New York to Seattle.

It was on the plane from New York to Seattle that I read last month’s Bon Appetit magazine which featured our friend Molly Orangette’s recipe for slow roasted tomatoes. The recipe was adapted from the one at Cafe Lago, a restaurant Molly writes lovingly about in the accompanying article, and a restaurant that’s back-to-back with an apartment where Craig used to live with his friends Ryan and Kristen.

The story might’ve ended there, with me reading about Cafe Lago’s Pomodori al Forno on the plane, except the story–like those slow-cooked tomatoes–gets richer as it goes along.

Before I left for Seattle, I told Molly that I was pretty sure that though I’d be right near her neck of the woods, I’d be kidnapped to Craig’s magical island of Dungeness Crabs and that I probably wouldn’t be able to see her. She said that she understood and that if I had time to see her at the last minute, to give her a call.

Well I didn’t have time, not really. I spent almost my full time in Washington State up in Bellingham, having a fantastic time with Craig and his family on Eliza Island, and we only came back to Seattle the night before flying back to New York. Our first stop after the drive back was to, strangely enough, Ryan and Kristen’s apartment (strange because of the Cafe Lago connection, pay attention) where we returned the car that Ryan leant Craig for the journey to Bellingham and back. Did I mention that the car was a stick shift and that Craig doesn’t know how to drive a stick shift and that we almost died in 8,000 different ways? I didn’t? Ok, well I won’t–I don’t die and tell.

Here’s where the story, like my stomach in that car, twists and turns: it turns out that through my blog Molly and her husband Brandon have befriended Ryan and Kristen who live quite near them. Both couples have new dogs and, in addition to seeing each other socially, they’re all dogsitting for each other when the need arises. And it just so happened that Molly was over at Ryan and Kristen’s visiting their dog when Kristen got the call that we were on our way back to return the car.

So it all comes full circle: my journey, which began with me holding Molly in my lap on the plane (figuratively, not literally) ended with me falling right there into Molly’s lap (literally, not figuratively.) We were reunited, all five of us (Craig, Molly, Ryan, Kristen and myself–Brandon was busy!) and when the question came up as to where we’d go to dinner, I didn’t hesitate to say: “Cafe Lago!”

I said it because Molly’s article made such a strong case for Cafe Lago’s terrificness. Plus, I wanted to try those slow roasted tomatoes at the source. So there I was, a few moments later, sitting at a table with the article’s author eating the very thing that she authored in that article. How often does that happen?

Here’s the famed dish in person, Cafe Lago’s Pomodori al Forno:

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It’s a true masterpiece, a brilliant combination of tart, savory, sweet, salty, garlicky, and, with the accompanying goat cheese, creamy. That goat cheese, Molly informed me, was from Laura Chenel: America’s first producer of goat cheese. It was everything I’d want it to be.

Naturally, upon my return to New York, I wanted to recreate this dish. As I said at the top, a recipe of several steps begins with 2,408 miles. Those several steps are so slight and simple that the only thing you need to make this at home is a baking dish, plum tomatoes, sugar, salt and olive oil. (In case you missed the link above, the recipe is here.) Sure, you can also add the recommended oregano and infuse it with garlic and parsley at the end, but the chemical process that makes these tomatoes so sublime requires only the most minimal tools and steps.

You heat the oven to 250. You slice your plum tomatoes in half, you seed them, you pour 1/2 cup of olive oil into the baking dish, place the tomatoes on top cut-side up, pour on another 1/2 cup of olive oil, sprinkle everything with oregano, sugar and salt and bake for an hour.

An hour later, you take the pan out and turn the tomatoes over. You bake an hour longer, take ‘em out one more time, flip ‘em over one last time and cook until deep red: it took me only 15 minutes.

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That’s it. Then you put the tomatoes in a bowl with chopped garlic and parsley and the remaining oil from the baking pan. That’s it.

It lasts up to 5 days in the fridge, but who could wait that long?

As recommended, I toasted some bread, spread on some fresh goat cheese (I used Coach Farm) and laid a roasted tomato on top:

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In a single word: heaven. With these tomatoes, it’s a place on earth. And thanks to Molly and her generosity and good writing, you don’t have to travel 2,408 miles to get them; you can make them yourself right now, while tomatoes are still beautiful. Or even when they’re not beautiful–you can make them from a can.

And you will be oh so glad you did.

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Categories: Appetizers, Recipes, Uncategorized

  • http://www.jonathaninchina.com Jonathan

    Damn, that looks good. This really makes me wish I had an oven. Do you think it would be possible to do this on the stove, at a really low temp.?

  • http://www.kittalog.com Kitt

    What a serendipitous meeting!

    I’m loving roasted tomatoes these days with a bountiful crop from my garden. I did a jumbo batch for 10 hours (at 170) and then used them as a base for a stellar sauce (pictures here).

    I hadn’t thought of adding sugar. I’ll have to try that@

  • http://www.pithyandcleaver.blogspot.com Maggie at Pithy and Cleaver

    Oh wow, what a great story! And tempting, tempting tomatoes.

  • http://bombaybeauty.blogspot.com Bombay Beauty

    I’m going to try this, as I’ve recently been on a tomato wavelength as well. I was in Boston for work this week and went by Rialto for a few antipasti. The one that blew me away was plum tomatoes with mozzarella, but really, really good tomatoes and incredible mozzarella. I kept asking myself, “How can this be so good?” I now where to find really good mozzarella, but now you’ve provided me with the second half. Thanks BB

  • http://marriedwithdinner.com/ Anita / Married …with Dinner

    Cafe Lago is our favorite Seattle restaurant — you made a fabulous choice! (We’re going there next Sunday, or else I would have to be jealous.)

    I am so glad that Carla’s delicious pomodori recipe is getting famous via Molly and now you.

  • http://scalloped-edge.blogspot.com Joanna

    Oh, YUM. I’ve slow-roasted tomatoes before but with only a drizzle of olive oil — these look more like roasted tomato confit, and my mouth is watering at the thought.

  • Smita

    Hey Adam,

    May I hit you up for some NYC info? Would you know of kitchens / food places where one can volunteer? Like a soup kitchen but with more volunteering options.

    Thanks in advance!

  • http://devourthis.typepad.com/ Jackie

    Right on.

    I have made these babies 3 times since reading Molly’s column!! And I’m not one to make recipes more than once (I don’t know why, I just like to try new things). I made them for a party and people were going bananas. I used aged goat cheese, Bucheron, and truly, it’s just maddeningly good.

  • http://www.onalobsterplacemat.blogspot.com Rose

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now but still haven’t commented. Today did me in though, mainly because I really want to prepare and eat this dish. Unfortunately, I have a weird, undiagnosed allergy to tomatoes (in large doses).

    I’m looking forward to seeing you this weekend at the Baltimore Book Festival. I already have it planned on my agenda.

  • http://www.sweettarte.blogspot.com Rachel

    Ooooh I tore this out of Bon Appetite and totally forgot about it until now–thanks for the reminder!

  • http://www.anticiplate.com Anticiplate

    I made this a couple of weeks ago, for many reasons, but one was that the owner of the restaurant, Carla, is actually one of my co-worker’s sisters. (Small world, I know). This was fantastic! The pomodoro from Cafe Lago is better than the one I made myself, but that is okay:)

    Being from Seattle, I love seeing my town represented culinarily and in the blogosphere.

    Here is the post on my blog:

    http://tinyurl.com/4ckrdt

  • http://whatstoeatbaltimore.blogspot.com Liz Stambaugh

    Thoose look really good! I wonder if a confectioners oven would have the same effect….

  • http://whatstoeatbaltimore.blogspot.com Liz Stambaugh

    Thoose look really good! I wonder if a confectioners oven would have the same effect….

  • http://www.mousebouche.blogspot.com A Mouse Bouche

    I salivated over these when I read about them on orangette and then the full article in bon appetit. I think it’s time i make them. I’m looking for simple recipes since i just broke my arm and this looks easy enough to do with one hand tied behind your back! better go take advantage of those summer tomatoes…

  • Sally

    I made these as soon as I saw the recipe in Bon Appetit and twice since. They are so good! They’re also good chopped and tossed with pasta.

  • Mahsa

    These tomatoes look so good! I am going to try them this weekend.

  • Mahsa

    These tomatoes look so good! I am going to try them this weekend.

  • http://www.foodista.com Alisa

    What a great meeting! A feel good story to tell my friends when I make this dish ths weekend!

  • http://www.foodista.com Alisa

    What a great meeting! A feel good story to tell my friends when I make this dish this weekend!

  • Fru Teston

    as for making roasted tomatoes without an oven, here is how a Marseilles friend of mine does it, with a black iron frying pan: halve good tomatoes, squeeze into sink to remove seeds, cook face down in a dry pan until most of the moisture is out (watch for burning); then turn face up, add olive oil, cook until very flat and red; then serve with chopped parsley, chopped green onion, chopped garlic, s&p. but these require really fresh, red, tomatoes – never thought of using canned! don’t apply to toast beforehand, it gets soggy

  • http://breakerbreaker.wordpress.com Matt

    With some really crisp bacon (perhaps the sweet spicy bacon that was also on Orangette, toast and a poached egg, these could very easily be translated into a morning affair and get onto my radar.

    That’s what will occupy my thoughts today.

  • Denise

    I just had this at Cafe Lago last night–it was wonderful. I jumped on the internet to see if I could find a recipe and here it is! Thank you so very much!

  • Denise

    I just had this at Cafe Lago last night–it was wonderful. I jumped on the internet to see if I could find a recipe and here it is! Thank you so very much!