Oven Roasted Tomatoes on Polenta "Flatbread"
At the height of summer I find that I'm a surrounded by tomatoes so fragrant I'd like to bottle it up and wear it as perfume. But then it's deep into fall and I'm trying to ignore that our days are getting shorter and chillier and it's back to crappy, dull tomatoes. While, for the most part, my recipes and cooking are based around what's in season, to say that I don't crave something at an off-season time and find a way to work it into my meals would be a stretch of the truth. It's impossible for me to banish tomatoes until next summer so instead, I try to find a way to make them the most flavorful they can be, in-season or not.
Roasting tomatoes is a great way to force all of those sugars within the tomato to concentrate and, when done low and slow for an extended period of time, the results get even better - jammy, sweet and the perfect way to satisfy that tomato craving out of season. Simply slice your tomatoes in half (or you can even leave them whole) and place them onto a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and a healthy pinch of salt and a couple pinches of pepper and then it's into the oven. Sometimes, before the pan goes into the oven, I'll drape thyme or rosemary delicately on top of the tomatoes, just to help give my tomatoes an extra boost of flavor.
While roasted tomatoes can be used in an innumerable amount of ways, I like them best on a flatbread. Layered with other meats and then scattered with a variety of cheeses, I think that an added layer of sweetness gives my flatbread a touch of something extra special. For this particular flatbread, instead of going traditional, I made my flatbread "dough" out of cheesy, herbed polenta that I spread onto a sheet pan before crisping it up and then adding my beautiful roasted tomatoes, shreds of cheese, slices of pastrami and fresh parsley. The base of the flatbread was delightfully crispy and poppy in the way that only polenta can be while the center was still soft. While I do think this took a little more time than you're average flatbread and probably isn't your best bet for an easy weeknight dinner, this is something extra special that you can throw together when friends come over. Especially since the majority of the cooking is hand's free and a lot of it can be made in advance and of course you can interchange toppings, but why not give the roasted fall 'mater a try?
Oven Roasted Tomatoes on Polenta "Flatbread"
- 1 1/2 cup Cornmeal
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes (any tomato works well here too!)
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, finely minced
- 2 cups cheese, divided (I used a mix of cheese bits that were in the fridge, really, you can't go wrong!)
- 4-5 slices pastrami, thinly sliced
- Olive oil for drizzling
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Half tomatoes if desired and and place them, skin-side down onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay thyme on top of tomatoes. Roast tomatoes for about 3 hours or until softened and starting to brown around the edges. Remove from oven and set aside.
In a pot, add polenta and rosemary to a pot. Cover with water, add a generous pinch of salt and bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. You may need to add more water as the polenta cooks. If it starts to stick to the bottom, add a little more water. Once the the polenta has softened, add the cheese and stir to combine. Season to taste. Coat a parchment lined baking sheet with butter or olive oil and spread the polenta out in an even layer. Chill for at least 30 minutes or until ready for use.
Remove polenta from the fridge and lightly coat with olive oil. Place under the broiler and broil for about 10 minutes, or until the outside crisps. Drop the heat to 400 and remove the polenta from the oven and top with cheese, tomatoes and pastrami. Bake for another 5 minutes or until the cheese melts. Top with fresh parsley and salt. Serve immediately.
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