There were a bunch of us together in beautiful midcoast Maine for a weekend back in July, and we took turns making meals. I had signed up to do lunch one day, and figured with a little advance planning, my co-lunch-maker and I would have minimal prep work as well as being flexible on the exact time people ate, which was nice on a hot saturday afternoon (or was it sunday?). Of course, early November is a dumb time for me to be telling you about how to make an easy mid-summer lunch for a group of vacationing people... but you can keep it in mind for next year. Or make it now and pretend it's summer.
Anyway, here was the spread:
Laid out (along with watermelon, cucumber spears and potato chips) for people to pick from to assemble a delicious sandwich we had:
nice thick sliced sourdough bread (kind of thinking I should have toasted it...)
cheeses of all kinds from our hosts' *cheese CSA* (be still, my heart!)
grilled red onions (thrown on the grill in the aftermath of the previous night's dinner grilling and refrigerated overnight, I had to rewarm them on the stove but they still had a nice grilled flavor)
olives (pitted for safety)
avocados (scooped out of skins and cut into wedges)
salt and pepper
slow roasted tomatoes (besides grilling the onions, this was the only advance prep I had to spend any time on; in fact I made them at home a couple days before and brought them up with us in a cooler; that recipe is what I'm giving you here today):
Slow Roasted Tomatoes
adapted from Recipes by Susan Spungen
This would be a great way to preserve and extend the life of an end-of summer glut of tomatoes when you don't feel like canning sauce. Even sad year-round supermarket tomatoes turn out amazingly delicious this way (aha! Year-round relevancy!), and you can store the results for several weeks (submerged in olive oil) in the fridge, and use them in scrambled eggs, on pizza, in a simple pasta sauce with oil and garlic or butter and cream, or roasted vegetables, in a cold cut sandwich, chopped up in a salad with the oil drizzled on top for dressing, in a vegetable soup, with goat cheese and crackers for a nice pre-dinner snack... et cetera. I don't bake these as hot as Spungen does, I bake them for a lot longer at a much lower temperature, because I want to ensure a sort of gooey, juicier-than-dried-fruit texture.
plum tomatoes (whatever amount you want - they shrink way down, so plan accordingly; 3 lbs. made about 3 cups of finished tomatoes)
extra virgin olive oil
garlic cloves (several, sliced very thin)
salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 350. Have ready rimmed cookie sheets/sheet pans or baking pans, just make sure you have enough square footage to fit all your tomatoes (halved) in a single layer.
Cut the tomatoes in half the long way, and cut out the stem. Throw them all onto your cookie sheets or sheet pans (or baking pans) with rims, drizzle with olive oil, plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper (crushed red pepper flakes too if you want), and toss them around with your hands till they're all nicely coated. Arrange them so they're all cut side up. Lay a garlic slice on each of the cut sides (fiddly, but worth it - I recommend having the garlic all sliced up and ready before you toss the tomatoes in the oil - your hands will be all nice and greasy from tossing tomatoes, which will make doling out the sticky garlic slices easier). Drizzle on a little more olive oil, if they aren't totally glistening yet.
Put the tomatoes in the 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 225 degrees and leave them for at least 3 hours, and up to 6 (the first time I did this, I started baking them late at night, and left them till morning at 200, for about 8 hours, and they turned out great). You want to see that they're not watery at all, kind of browned and golden at the edges, and plump and shriveled at the same time.
Here they are at 4 hours, they looked nice but I felt they could go longer:
Here they are at 8 hours at 225:
Let them cool, then pack them in a good seal-able container with enough olive oil drizzled on to cover their surface.
Here's a finished sandwich from that nice summer day I wish I was back inside of: