It’s tomato season here in Santa Barbara. Multi-colored cherry, heirloom and romas are at the Farmers Market in all their sugary-sweet glory.
Whether I’m downing cherry tomatoes like popcorn, or gorging myself on side or main salads with pretty slices of heirlooms, I revel in their earthy freshness. On the other hand, while my Bug loves cooked tomatoes in any form or cuisine, fresh tomatoes leave her cold.
So, when I lugged home several more baskets of the brightly-colored fruit from the Farmers Market a few days ago, I decided to indulge my Bug. I slow-roasted a pan full of them in the oven and served the jammy mix with one of her favorite cheeses, a decadent, buttery burrata from C’est Cheese, and crispy, garlicky toasts.
While you’ll need to plan ahead a bit to accommodate the long roasting time, this is a simple dish to prepare. I combined sliced plum and cherry tomatoes on a cookie sheet with thin slivers of pungent heirloom garlic. I poured a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over the top, and added a few pinches of salt and pepper to the mix, tossing the lot with my hands until the red and orange tomato pieces were slick. They cooked in a 275-degree oven for nearly 2 1/2 hours, filling the house with a mouthwatering aroma. I shook the pan every 15-20 minutes to keep them cooking evenly.
Once the tomatoes had crumpled, their edges brown and caramelized, I pulled them out of the oven to cool in their pan. I toasted slices of our favorite locally-baked sourdough multigrain bread from D’Angelo’s, and rubbed each side with raw garlic cloves while they were still hot. The garlic cloves soften with the heat, perfuming and flavoring the crunchy slices.
Time for assembly: Spread about a tablespoon of the burrata evenly across a piece of toast, heap a few spoonfuls of the intensely sweet tomatoes over the creamy cheese, followed by a sprinkle of sea salt and fresh pepper. I scattered a few torn basil leaves across the top for freshness and color, but they’re optional. A drizzle of peppery olive oil before serving is a much-appreciated final touch.
With a big grin on her face, the Bug savored the crostini, sighing over the perfect pairing of summer flavors and textures. And, I delighted in the sight of my happy girl actually enjoying the arrival of tomato season.
A couple of notes: I find roma or plum tomatoes and cherry tomatoes work best for roasting. Due to their juiciness, larger beefsteak and heirlooms tend to steam in the oven, instead of caramelizing.
Be sure that your bread is a day or two old. You want it to crisp up during toasting and be a sturdy base for the soft cheese and tomatoes.
Burrata is the perfect cheese for this crostini, but fresh ricotta makes a delicious substitute.
- 2¼ lbs of cherry tomatoes and/or a mix of roma (plum) tomatoes, rinsed, dried and sliced into relatively equal sizes
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin plus 2 cloves of peeled garlic for the toasts
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- ⅜ teaspoon kosher salt
- freshly-ground pepper to taste
- 6-8 slices day-old bread (I like a sourdough multi-grain)
- 1 ball of burrata cheese
- a few leaves of fresh basil (optional)
- sea salt, fresh pepper and good olive oil for serving
- Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Slice the tomatoes and scoop them onto a large, foil-covered cookie sheet. Add the garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until everything is slick. Roast in the oven for 2-2½ hours, shaking the pan every 15-20 minutes. They'll be done when they are soft, the edges are brown and the tomatoes have caramelized. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan. Once cool, spoon the tomato mixture into a bowl.
- Increase the oven to 300 degrees. Slice the bread and place the slices on a large cookie sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, just until crisp, turning the slices after about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately rub each side of bread with the raw garlic cloves. The garlic cloves will soften quickly and melt into the bread. Set the bread on a serving dish.
- Put the burrata in a small bowl for serving. To assemble, spread burrata on each slice, top with a few spoonfuls of the tomato mixture. Sprinkle with sea salt and fresh pepper and swirl of olive oil before serving.