Is it too early too talk about tomatoes?
They’re already so good and abundant in the markets. I still had quite a few left over from the kilo I bought in the shuk a few days before. I was thinking of a dip or spread for basil bread that I was going to take to a little get-together later on. Like, a tomato pesto.
And there were all these sweet, plum cherry tomatoes on my counter. It was easy to imagine roasting, then blending them. Adding almonds to thicken the puree. Herbs, too, and naturally, olive oil. Yes.
The thing I discovered after making this a few times is, you need tomatoes, cherry or otherwise, that are sweet. Very tart tomatoes produce a very tart dip that needs correcting with sugar. I really don’t want to add sugar to my tomato dip. Just a matter of personal preference, but I think that the natural sweetness of tomatoes, brought out by roasting, needs only a touch of balsamic vinegar, and even then…plain apple cider vinegar works too. You just have to taste and adjust vinegar, salt, and pepper until the dip tastes right to you.
Prepping these little tomatoes took no more than cutting them in half and spreading them on the tray. No need to skin them or squeeze their pulp out.
I added an ingredient I’d never allowed in the house before. Garlic salt. Those of my readers who know how passionate I am about real garlic can imagine how snobbish I feel towards processed garlic powder. But my son, Eliezer, seems to need it. And who am I to deny my boy?
So there was a plastic shaker of garlic salt, lurking under other spices and probably hoping I wasn’t going to find it. I was looking at those little tomato halves and thinking how delicate they were, and how fresh garlic seemed too strong. So I shook some of that disdained garlic salt over the tomatoes, and wallah! it was just the right touch.
Not that I’m converting to garlic salt any time soon, I’m just saying that for this recipe, it worked. Another way might be to blend some garlic confit into the mix instead.
After the tomatoes were roasted, it took about 5 minutes to finish making the dip with my stick blender. I had some fresh lemon thyme, so that’s what I used for the batch in the photo below.
The dip was a big hit at the party. The folks spread it over thin slices of basil bread and simply feasted.
Roasted Tomato Pesto
Yield: 2 – 1/2 cups
Ingredients For Roasting Tomatoes:
2 – 1/2 lightly packed cups of halved cherry tomatoes
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons dried herb of choice: I used crumbled za’atar, but rosemary or thyme are good too.
2 teaspoons garlic salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup blanched, slivered or thinly sliced almonds
1 tablespoon fresh aromatic herbs: basil, lemon thyme, coriander leaf, etc.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar – substitute balsamic if tomatoes are very tart.
Turn oven on to 250°C – 480 F.
Spread halved tomatoes over a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle the remaining ingredients for roasting them over all. Roast for 45 minutes – 1 hour. You want them cooked through but with their juices still evident on the baking sheet. It’s OK if they’re a little charred on top, though.
Cool the tomatoes for 15 minutes. Take the parchment paper and funnel the tomatoes, with all their seeds and juices, out of it and into a blender.
Add the almonds, herbs, olive oil, salt and vinegar. Blend the heck out of it. The longer and harder you blend, the smoother the dip will be. Remember, the tomatoes weren’t skinned, so thorough blending will break down the bits of peel.
Taste. If desired, add more olive oil, salt, or vinegar to taste – by teaspoons, so as not to go overboard on any one. Can be served immediately, or served cold.
The dip will keep in the fridge up to a week if covered with a film of olive oil and tightly covered.