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The End Is Coming
It happens every year. We wait and wait for a big selection of local tomatoes – Cherokees, Sungolds, Brandywine, Early Girl, Roma or San Marzano – and then at this time in September we are buried in the final tomato burst before we get into squash season. I have looked at the stats on the tomato posts and the most downloaded recipe (3073 times and counting) is the KD approximation of the Fore Street Tomato Tart (no one knows the real recipe apparently). Tomato Orzo traybake is second with over 1500 downloads so far, and Tarte Mathilde, a fictional recipe that Smitten Kitchen turned into a real one lags behind in third place with fewer than 900. These three recipes use cherry tomatoes, Capri or a variety of brightly colored large heirlooms. But other than sauce, you don’t often see an imaginative use for the San Marzano or Roma tomatoes. Paola Pallotta, the Italy Insider’s sister-in-law, offers this one.
Enter The Sauce Tomato
This post was supposed to be a bonus recipe for the end of August, but my fascination with the subject of synthetic food – something I had never thought about – got in the way. This exceptional recipe features the ripest (and smaller – save the bigger ones for sauce) plum tomatoes known popularly as Roma or San Marzano. Both of them are oval rather than round and have considerably less juice than the other varieties. San Marzano has only two seed chambers and is sweeter (some say it makes the best tomato jam) than the Roma. In Italy, Roma is the economy sauce tomato, whereas the San Marzano is the fancier and more expensive one.
Paola, much like her brother, does not believe in exact recipes and says that you have to proceed with the amount of tomatoes you have and the size of pan. She is an inventive cook but says she has stolen some of her ideas from the contadini (farmers). This one is her riff on the porchetta flavoring of roast pork with rosemary, garlic, salt, bread crumbs and olive oil. Traditionally porchetta (derived from the word “little female pig”) is a culinary tour de force in which a female pig is roasted for several hours with a mixture of rosemary, garlic, salt, fennel, pepper, olive oil, wine. and sometimes other herbs. It is wrapped in its rind and tied and then roasted until the fat and skin are crisp and crackly, sliced and put on bread.
Pomodorini in Porchetta is definitely a stovetop recipe. You must keep an eye on the pan. Paola puts a small amount of olive oil in the bottom of a heavy metal casserole (cast aluminum, cast iron or copper would be fine for this). You want the barest film of oil in the pan, as too much will impede the type of roasted effect you want in the finished dish. She then cores the stem end of the tomatoes with a paring knife and halves the tomatoes. Some of the pulp and seeds are then removed before nestling the tomatoes in the pan in a single layer only.
You turn the burner on to medium heat, and salt the tomato halves (she does not use pepper) and add some small tufts of rosemary. Finely chopped garlic can be added too, although Paola does not as she finds it hard to digest. She then adds several spoonfuls of fine bread crumbs, and a final small drizzle of good olive oil.
Now lower the heat and allow the tomatoes to gently sauté in the pan over a lower but still in the medium heat range. This is the point where you need to keep your eye on the pan and occasionally gently shake it without flipping the tomatoes. Paola takes the pan off the burner and shakes it with both hands. This process takes about 30 to 45 minutes. You want a slightly charred exterior with a jammy interior. These can be served hot off the burner, or later at room temperature. Pop leftover ones in the fridge and serve the next day on toasted baguette slices which have been rubbed with a halved garlic clove and brushed with a good olive oil. They can be sliced (or not) and added to a pasta dish or a rice salad. And there you have it— porchetta without the piggy!
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.