A few weeks ago, on a whim (and because Deb Perelman never steers me wrong), I tried Smitten Kitchen’s Slow-Roasted Tomatoes. They’re drier than the oven-roasted tomatoes I’d made before, but more moist than sun-dried tomatoes. The flavor is sweet, but still with an underlying acidic tang. I was sold.
Tom doesn’t usually care for either sun-dried tomatoes or cooked tomatoes in general, unless they’re puréed into a sauce. But he grabbed one off the cookie sheet where they were cooling, and was an instant fan.
We’ve folded them with shredded chicken and cheese in tortillas for a quick lunch. We tossed them with pasta and sautéed bell peppers for a dinner that was mighty tasty. I made batch after batch, stuffed the extras in jars, drizzled them with olive oil, and popped them in the freezer.
Deb roasts hers at 225 degrees F for three hours. My oven must be slow, because my first batch took over 4 hours. I found that two hours at 300 degrees F was perfect, for my oven anyway.
For dinner tonight, I once again used Smitten Kitchen as inspiration (this happens quite frequently), but this time more as a jumping-off point. My creation is a hybrid of the Wild Rice Gratin with Kale, Caramelized Onions and Baby Swiss from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes, from her blog.
My version has the cheesy creaminess and golden, crunchy topping of the gratin, but the nutty chewiness of farro and tangy sweetness of the roasted tomatoes. I also added a handful of toasted pine nuts to the crunchy panko topping as a favor to Tom. He adores pine nuts, and I forget to use them. They added terrific flavor that echoed the nuttiness of the farro. I won’t leave them out ever again.
For the cheese that mingles with the farro and the tomatoes and creates a sauce, I used a mixture of fontina and a soft, mild cheese with flecks of green onion that we’d gotten locally. (We do live in the Cheese State, after all.) I’d recommend any creamy, mild melting cheese.
Farro is an ancient form of wheat. It is available whole-grain, semi-pearled and pearled (pearling removes the outer bran layer). The cooking times vary greatly; pearled farro cooks in as little as 15 minutes, while whole-grain can take an hour. Your package might not indicate the level of pearled-ness (so to speak), but you can rely on cooking times. The farro from the organic section of my grocery store provides no clue at all; turns out it’s whole-grain. I soak it in hot water for half an hour, then cook right in that same water with a little salt for about 45 minutes. It freezes well, so cook a big potful, then pack it in 2-cup batches, which fit nicely in pint-sized freezer bags. Flatten, close, then freeze.
The pan-seared chicken breasts were ignored tonight. Tom and I dove into that creamy, chewy, cheesy, tangy, nutty gratin with the crisp crust over and over again, saying “Just one more bite…” We’ll be fighting over the meager leftovers tomorrow for lunch.
Quick health update: I have 8 more radiation treatments left, and am feeling … okay. Essentially, it’s like having a bad sunburn in a very sensitive area. My energy level is lower (but not too low to avoid the kitchen, obviously). In less than two weeks, I move from breast cancer treatment phase to recovery. I’m thankful every day that my tumor was slow-growing, and caught so early. I’m also blessed with great friends and a loving family. All is good.
Roasted Tomato and Farro Gratin
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
serves 4 as a side dish
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 tbs. butter
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
1 tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 tsp. dried
2 cloves roasted garlic (see below)
1 cup roasted cherry tomatoes (see below)
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock, divided
2 cups cooked farro
1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used a mixture of fontina and a creamy, mild onion cheese)
Toast the pine nuts lightly in a dry medium skillet over medium heat. Watch carefully: they go from pale gold to burnt very quickly. Set aside to cool. Add the butter to the skillet, then the panko once the butter is melted. Season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Toast, stirring constantly, until light golden. This will only take a few minutes, so watch carefully. Set aside to cool with the pine nuts.
Add olive oil to the skillet along with the onions and thyme. Season lightly with salt and pepper and cook until they’re tender and browned in spots, about 15 minutes. Add the stock to the pan and stir well to scrape up the browned bits. Mash the roasted garlic into the liquid. Add the farro and cook for a minute, till the farro is warmed through.
Lightly grease a small casserole dish (I used a 10-inch pie pan). Add 1 cup of the grated cheese to the faro mixture. Scrape into the casserole dish. Sprinkle the reserved panko and pine nuts on top. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over all.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until the dish is bubbly and browned on top.
Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 pint tomatoes (cherry, grape, or very small Roma)
a few cloves garlic, unpeeled
about 1 tbs. olive oil
salt and pepper
about 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, optional
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Halve the tomatoes (lengthwise for grape or Roma tomatoes). Lay them close together on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Nestle garlic cloves among the tomatoes. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and with thyme if using.
Roast in the oven for about 2 hours, until the tomatoes are shriveled and moist, not juicy but not completely dried either. Store for several days well-covered in the fridge, or freeze in an airtight container. Recipe doubles easily.