As I prepare to move to Sudan, I'm thinking a lot about what I will miss. Perhaps that's why I've been obsessed with avocados lately. One thing I will NOT miss are American tomatoes. I mean, I'm sure there are good ones out there, but 9 times out of 10, what I find at the store are mushy, watery-tasting tomatoes. Summertime tomatoes are better than wintertime tomatoes, but unless you have your own garden or are visiting a greenmarket, the tomato situation is usually not so great.
Sudanese tomatoes are always fresh. If you don't get them while they're fresh and ripe, you don't get them. No cold storage. No shipments from abroad. And sometimes, when the weather is over 120 degrees for days at a time, there are no tomatoes. Those are sad days, but for the 10 months of the year that tomatoes are plentiful, no American tomato can hold a candle to a tomato grown on the banks of the Nile river.
I eat Sudanese tomatoes happily. Wash, eat, period. Nothing else necessary. For breakfast, tomatoes with a little feta cheese. For a dinner salad, maybe diced tomatoes with onions and a little lime juice and salt. It doesn't get any better.
Here in New York, though, it takes a little effort to bring out the tangy sweetness of tomatoes. I find the easiest way to do that - and also the easiest way to make a pasta sauce - is by roasting grape (or cherry) tomatoes. It's so simple and so tasty that once you try them you'll be roasting little tomatoes constantly and looking for ways to use them!
Roasted Grape (or Cherry) Tomatoes:
- Grape or Cherry Tomatoes (as many as you want)
- Olive oil (enough to just coat the tomatoes)
- garlic cloves (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
- Prepare your tomatoes for roasting by tossing them in a bowl with a little olive oil. Make sure they're all pretty well coated.
- Spread the tomatoes in a shallow pan (glass or metal).
- Sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
- If you want to roast garlic at the same time, just take a piece of tin foil, place the garlic cloves on it, add a drop of olive oil, salt, and pepper, wrap them up, and throw them into the pan with the tomatoes.
- Pop the pan into the oven and wait. After a while, you may hear little popping noises. Yes, the tomatoes are popping. You want this to happen so they can release some of their liquid.
- How long you roast the tomatoes for is up to you. I'd say roast them for at least 1/2 hour. As you roast them longer, they get sweeter and the flavor concentrates more, so check on them every 5 or 10 minutes and take them out when you're happy with what they look and taste like.
- Pour this over fresh pasta with the tomato liquid that is in the pan, and you've got an easy, delicious and healthy sauce. If you roasted garlic, mash it up and stir it in.
Here's a before and after picture that I did not take. Sorry. No tomatoes in the house!
- You can roast other veggies at the same time. Try zucchini, onion (in chunks), and mushrooms (sorry, Toni. Other people like them!) Actually, I love roasted mushrooms.