It’s amazing where you discover the darnedest things: Last week I discovered a recipe for Tomato Confit in the wilderness of a national park. I was on kitchen duty for my daughter’s school outing to a Bay area national seashore. Each autumn the students spend several days immersed in nature, nestled in a camp high in the hills overlooking the Pacific. Kitchen duty is a full-time volunteer position. We rise before dawn and spend the day preparing 4 meals for 80 hungry children and adults. While it’s hard work, it’s great fun in a spectacular setting and rewarding to make the best food possible for all. This year we hired a kitchen manager, Sebastian, an alumni of the school who currently sous-chefs at the acclaimed Napa restaurant Oenotri. He was easily convinced to trade in his wine country chef whites and come to the beach for a few days to help out his old school.
One night for dinner we prepared an Italian themed menu which included a variety of pasta dishes. Sebastian made a tomato sauce as one of the accompaniments which consisted of heirloom cherry tomatoes, olive oil and salt. It’s was simple and intense. The tomatoes cooked and broke down in a generous amount of oil for an hour or so, resulting in a thickened and rich confit. Delicious with pasta, for sure, yet extremely versatile, I wanted to experiment with the recipe and made a Tomato Confit at home this week. I made a large batch, so I could divide it up and freeze for later use. I saved one cup and used it as a topping for crostini. I think I’ll use my next batch as an extra ingredient in a cheese fondue. I suspect it will be delicious – I’ll be sure to let you know how it turns out.
Cherry tomatoes may be substituted for heirloom cherry tomatoes. Makes 4 cups.
4 pints (about 4 pounds) heirloom cherry tomatoes
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar, optional
Combine tomatoes and olive oil in a large saucepan or soup pot. Simmer over medium-low heat until tomatoes begin to break down, stirring occasionally and breaking tomatoes apart with a spoon. Continue to cook until all the tomatoes have broken down and sauce is thick, about one hour in all. Add salt and taste for seasoning. If necessary add sugar.
Crostini with Goat Cheese and Tomato Confit:
Cut 8 – 1/2 inch slices of a baguette. Brush slices with olive oil and bake in a 400 F. oven until golden brown, 10-12 minutes. Stir 1/2 cup fresh goat cheese, 1 minced garlic clove and a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper together in a small bowl. Spread goat cheese on each baguette. Top with a teaspoon of tomato confit. Garnish with rosemary sprigs.
Pasta with Tomato Confit:
Bring 1 cup tomato confit, 1 cup heavy cream, 2 rosemary sprigs and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper to a simmer. Cook 10 minutes until slightly reduced. Remove rosemary sprigs. Toss with 1 pound freshly cooked penne and 1/2 cup grated Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese.