Roasted cherry tomatoes (4 servings)

Happy 2015, readers! Apparently, I made a New Year's resolution to abstain from updating my blog, and I'm proud to say I was successful until just now. I guess we all falter eventually, huh? Heh.

Anyway, it's definitely winter here and has been "Carolina cold" lately. (As a displaced Yankee, I hesitate to call anything above 32° cold for fear of mockery from my Northern friends and family.) Windy, gray days make me long for the juicy, bright, invigorating flavors of summer, and perhaps nothing typifies that summer savor satisfaction better than a ripe tomato. But sadly, there's no worse disappointment (or waste of money) than a mealy, flavorless out-of-season tomato. Bleurghh. I shudder to think.

Fortunately, cherry and grape tomatoes are tasty any time of year. Yes, local, in-season tomatoes are even better, but their little siblings make a good substitute during the coldest months. Here, I served them on top of crisped polenta slices and ayocote morado beans I'd made in the crockpot a few days earlier. Sweetened by roasting and jazzed up with garlic and cilantro, the tomatoes lightened the polenta's density and balanced the beans' savory flavors.

You will need:

  • 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • fresh cilantro leaves

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil or spritz it with non-stick spray.
  2. Rinse the tomatoes and pat them dry on a clean towel. Place the tomatoes in a large bowl and drizzle the oil over them. Toss gently to coat them evenly. Sprinkle the garlic, cumin, oregano and red pepper flakes, plus a big pinch of salt, over the tomatoes and toss gently again.
  3. Spread the tomatoes out on the baking sheet. Roast for 25-35 minutes, or until the tomatoes are sizzling and beginning to shrivel.
  4. Remove the pan from oven and allow the tomatoes to cool slightly. Return them to the large bowl and add cilantro leaves. Lightly smash the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Serve warm.

I think the tomatoes would also work well with a variety of other pairings, such as pasta, rice, or vegetarian chorizo. They would even be great over toasted bread with a little melted feta or queso blanco on top. Ooh, or with scrambled eggs and refried beans! Now my wheels are turning...