The cherry tomato plants in the garden are still producing nicely and my husband and I can't really keep up with eating them fresh out of hand. Yesterday I was faced with a basketful of them on the counter when I needed to pick another bunch fresh off the vines - too much! So all the ones on the counter went into an experiment that turned out to be a winner.
Over the last few weeks I've been slow roasting a lot of the excess cherry tomatoes to preserve them long term. If you roast them to the point where they become leathery, sort of like sun-dried tomatoes but somewhat crisp and caramelized, they will keep for months in the refrigerator. Those are really delicious eaten out of hand but I've got enough of those now and was searching for some other way to use the cherries. So I wondered what those roasted tomatoes would be like ground into a paste. The answer is - yum, fantastic! It came out thick and incredibly concentrated, sweet and rich. A little bit goes a long way.
Here's what I did, sorry for the vague amounts, I wasn't keeping track this time.
Slow Roasted Cherry Tomato Pesto
about 1/4 cup slivered basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts (I did measure these for some reason)
4 cloves garlic
a pinch of dried oregano
1 to 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar or to taste
salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 225F. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and lay them out cut side up on an 18 X 13-inch rimmed baking sheet (jelly roll pan) - I like to line the pan with parchment paper, but that isn't absolutely necessary. Fill the pan without crowding it. Scatter the basil over the tomatoes and then drizzle generously with olive oil. Bake for about 3 hours more or less, depending on the size of the tomatoes, until the tomatoes are leathery and their edges are getting crisp. Set them aside to cool. My oven has a convection fan that I use for this recipe, if you don't have convection you may want to raise the temperature to 250F.
Sometime while the tomatoes are roasting, spread the pine nuts on another baking sheet and put them in the oven to lightly toast for about 15 minutes. Set them aside to cool.
When the pine nuts and tomatoes are done and cool make the pesto. Peel the garlic and process it in a food processor until minced. Add the pine nuts, tomatoes, and dried oregano to the work bowl and process until chopped. With the processor running, drizzle in enough olive oil until a thick paste forms. Add the balsamic vinegar and salt to taste, briefly processing and testing until it tastes good to you.
I think this would also be tasty with some cheese mixed in but I thought I would freeze this batch and I don't like the way cheese freezes.
So, how to use the stuff?
-- Pasta is one obvious use, I would thin the pesto with some of the pasta cooking water and stir in some parmigiano, maybe add some chile pepper flakes to spice it up.
-- Spread on crackers or crostini, maybe topped with a slice of cheese.
-- Spread on bread, topped with some buffalo mozzarella and toasted in the oven until the cheese melts.
-- In a sandwich with some arugula and ... chicken or tuna or egg or grilled eggplant or cheese (of course).
-- Thin it to drizzle on meat or poulty or fish.
-- How would you use it?
Update, November 5:
I thought I would add this as it was a delicious use for the pesto. I made an open faced sandwich of toasted hearty bread spread with the pesto, topped with blanched Piracicaba broccoli that had been chopped and tossed with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, all topped with sliced young Manchego cheese. Run it under the broiler to melt the cheese. Good stuff!