Slow-Roasted Plum Tomatoes with Herb Salt

Give me one good reason why anyone would choose to cook tomatoes at the very apex of their season, especially for four hours?  

Okay, here’s one: Slow-Roasted Plum Tomatoes with Herb Salt.

Plum tomatoes are the different tomatoes of the pomodoro world.  Not inferior, just different.  Consumed raw, their virtues remain hidden, but when roasted slowly they soften to the consistency of butter.  Spread them on good bread, give them a quick chop to help them morph into an instant accompaniment to pasta.  As a contribution to a picnic where everyone assembles his or her own plate of goodies, or as a high class sumpin’-sumpin’ with olives and shaved Pecorino Romano before dinner, they will provoke applause.

They’re also addictive.  Theoretically you could keep them in your fridge for about 10 days – but no batch has made it past day 5 in ours.   Although we frown on people just having a go at them with a fork as much as we frown on drinking directly from the milk bottle, it’s been known to happen.  In fact, the plan was for Jody to start them in the oven and then I’d take them out and photograph them with some homemade buratta some hours later while she was at work.

We were good through the take-the-them-out-of-the-oven phase.  The pictures tell the story.  First I shot the roasted tomatoes by themselves, then with a little bread, then smeared on a piece of bread… which I made the mistake of tasting… and all thoughts of buratta dropped out of my head.  About halfway though Obama’s speech I remembered the cheese.

Aside from blocking out the time for the tomatoes to roast, this recipe couldn’t be easier, but as in every blog, the best laid plans o’ mice and men gang aft aglay.  For some reason we ended up with a particularly dirty batch of herbs this week.  After a couple of rinsings and then allowing them to dry completely, Jody started chopping the rosemary and it was still gritty.  Aaaaarrrrggggg!!  We had no time to clean and dry a new batch of herbs, so she just rinsed them again, then dried them in the toaster oven.  Alas, that step killed their color.  They tasted fine, but now they were green-gray instead of green.

In the interest of verisimilitude, there are some things I won’t change in Photoshop.  What you make should look as good (or better) than what we make.  Just be sure you buy clean rosemary.  Enjoy.  Ken

WE’RE GOING AWAY NOTE: We’re spending next week biking in Italy, and then Jody is going on to Paris and England.  So for the next two Fridays we may or may not post, depending on how things go.  By the time we return, fall will be in full swing.  Relish the last days of summer.  Avanti!

Slow-Roasted Plum Tomatoes

with Herb Salt

Makes a quart.

Herb Salt Ingredients:

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons lightly toasted coriander seeds, crushed in mortar
  • 1 tablespoon lightly toasted fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/3 cup chopped thyme


  1. Combine ½ cup kosher salt and the crushed coriander, fennel, rosemary and thyme in a blender.  Blend, stopping every 30 seconds or so to stir things up from the bottom and brush down the sides.  Continue until the herbs and seeds are finely and evenly chopped.  Transfer to a bowl and combine with the remaining ½ cup of salt.   At this point you can either refrigerate the salt, or lay it out on a sheet pan to dry for a few days.  After drying, transfer to a jar and store on a shelf in a dark spot.  Dried herb salt will last for a couple of months, although it will become less pungent with time.  The refrigerated product is good for a week.  Use it as you would any ordinary salt.

Tomato Ingredients:

  • 24  ripe plum tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon herb salt
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 250°.
  2. Trim the stems off the tomatoes and cut in half lengthwise.  Toss the tomatoes in a bowl with the salt first until it’s even distributed over them, then add the remaining ingredients and toss again.
  3. Arrange the tomatoes, cut-side up, in a single layer on a rack sitting on a rimmed baking sheet or in a shallow roasting pan.  Spoon any oil and vinegar remaining in the bowl over the tomatoes.  Roast  4-5 hours, depending on the moisture content of the tomatoes.  Begin checking after two hours, then every 30 minutes.  They’re done when the edges curl and the skin wrinkles, but they should still be juicy at the heart.  Let cool, then refrigerate in a tightly r covered container.

Jody Notes:

I’m spoiled: At Rialto, we have a VitaMix blender that will pulverize everything in seconds.  But for this post I used my reliable KitchenAid home blender.  It does a great job, but isn’t as ferocious as the VitaMix.  In hindsight, I would have chopped the herbs smaller and crushed the spices in the mortar and pestle before adding them to the salt.  I’ve modified the recipe so some of the ingredients are crushed  in mortar before they hit the blender, but you won’t see this reflected in the pictures.  

Ken and I had a heated back and forth over the phone about this post as I was driving to work to write the annual budget.  Never discuss anything substantive when you’re writing a budget.  You’re already in pain and not inclined to be as open-minded as you might be otherwise.  Writing a budget always makes me feel like I’m walking into a calculus class–and I never took calculus!  Anyway,  he had mentioned herb salt earlier in the day and I had just seen ripe plum tomatoes in the farmers’ market.  It seemed like a perfect blog post combination.  Slow-Roasted Plum Tomatoes with Herb Salt.  Done.  Check it off the list.  

But it wasn’t that easy.   He had an opinion.  

“Why would anyone want to roast tomatoes this time of year?  We roast tomatoes in the winter, when their flavor needs a kick.”  

He was half right; we BRAISE tomatoes in olive oil in the winter.  BUT:  plum tomatoes are born to be cooked, not eaten raw.  Because they’re meaty and low in moisture they hold their shape while cooking, allowing the flavors to concentrate.  Ultimately he caved–I wore him down.*

Next on the list: How many covers (restaurant speak for “diners”) do we think we’ll do in the second week of August in 2013?  This is the glamorous life of a chef. After spending the day crunching numbers, I was so happy when I got home tonight.  I poured myself a glass of red wine, made some quick pasta, tossed it with chopped slow-roasted tomatoes, a sprinkle of herb salt and some cheese.   A perfect midnight snack.  

*Jody did not wear me down.  I diplomatically withdrew from the field.  This week Jody and I are biking, cooking and taking photos in Puglia.  Never travel with someone with whom you’re fighting. Click on the thumbnails below to see additional recipe photos or to view pictures in a larger format.

31 thoughts

  1. Well, your lives (biking in Puglia? Really?) don’t seem to have ‘gang aft afley’ whereas my schemes have….This should prompt any farmers’ market goers to grab a box of plum tomatoes. I’ve made a pretty good soup out of these, too. If you can keep them around long enough, do you think you could freeze them? I’m going to find out next week, after I hit the farm stand. Have a wonderful trip! (I’ll be staying home reading Robert Burns for my bit of poetry.)

    • You can absolutely freeze them, although their texture suffers a little, but that’s not a problem if you’re going to use them in soup or for a sauce. We’ll keep you posted on how the mice and men are doing on their bikes. Ken

  2. Ooh, have the most wonderful time in Italy.

    Too late for this post. I actually already slow-roasted the plum tomatoes that had been on my counter two days ago. I use the Silver Palate recipe with the two tablespoons of sugar. I’ve never done savory, but last year I started seeing similar recipes to this one involving garlic.

    Ours are in the fridge and the plan is to have them for dinner. I’m trying to decide if I want to cook up some farro in the pressure cooker and chop these up, or toss them with pasta.

    Obviously, the ones I roasted last week were eaten with my fingers are I leaned on the counter. It can’t be helped.

    • Hi, Molly–Ha-ha! Couldn’t help yourself, eh? Welcome to the club. At least I claimed to use a fork! They really are great. From personal experience I can tell you they taste great with farro, but I think I’d still prefer a really sturdy string pasta like bucatini. Cheers. Ken

  3. Here I’ve been buying just the heirlooms and ignoring the plums. Lesson learned. Hope you’re having fun in Italy (and then France and the UK) and I’m looking forward to hearing about it (and what your travels inspire in the kitchen!) Also, I’ve never put my cooling racks in the oven before–aha!

    • You can apply the same technique to field tomatoes if you get a deal on them. As regards other tomatoes, I think I consumed my own weight in purple cherokees this summer–this were magnificent! Ken

  4. He caved…you wore him down….whatever the reason, I’m glad you followed through on this post because the world NEEDS to know about roasting plum tomatoes. I did a batch about 2 weeks back for a tomato and cheddar tart and they were so good that I wished I had doubled the batch, 1/2 for the tart, the other 1/2 for random noshing. Beautiful! Have a great time in Italy and be wary of the pre-noon prosecco.

  5. Pingback: Slow-Roasted Plum Tomatoes with Herb Salt – Straddle The White Line

  6. Whoa! Jody’s recommendation of the ‘perfect midnight snack’ is also the perfect lunch. Yesterdays slow roasted tomatoes are now history. We did get to share a few first. Everyone’s reaction was the same; raised eyebrows and wide eyed because their mouth was full. And they thought they were getting just another tomato! I have emailed some local Garum Factory devotees asking if they wanted some of the salt. And now that I read they can be frozen I’ll be running this salt out one way or another. Thanks again folks, as always. Us

    • Hi Guys!–Jody will be happy to hear from you and that you’re happy with the tomatoes. They really are a treat. Happy to see you haven’t wasted any time before getting back into the kitchen since Puglia. You’re going to recognize some of the food here over the next couple of weeks as we revisit some of those recipes. Again, it was a real pleasure getting to hang out with you. Ken

    • Hello Matai–My German is very limited. I think you asked me: “Please describe how you photograph so masterfully.” First of all, I’m glad you enjoy the pictures. If you click on ABOUT THE PHOTOS at the very top of the page it may help answer your question. One thing I will say is that there’s nothing like taking lots of bad photographs and then having to figure out what you might do differently the next time for improving your technique. It also helps to looks at photographs you like and ask yourself, What was the aperture? Where is the light coming from? etc. Good luck. Ken

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