Hot tomatoes, flavorful taste

August 15, 1999|By Annette Gooch | Annette Gooch,Universal Press Syndicate

Sun-ripened tomatoes are a hot item at farmers' markets and produce stands. From bite-sized cherry varieties to beefy, 2-pound slicers, nothing completes a cool, refreshing salad or tasty sandwich like sweet, juicy tomatoes.

But roast a tomato in the oven or on the grill, or broil it, and you have almost an entirely different vegetable, the dry heat concentrating flavor and deepening color. Lightly charring the skin adds even more to the taste and visual appeal of a roasted tomato. For the hot tomato dishes below, pick very fresh, ripe but firm tomatoes with solid, meaty flesh.

Roasted Tomato and Feta Pasta Salad, Serves 4

1/2 pound firm feta cheese, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup olive oil

1 heaping basket cherry tomatoes

3/4 pound penne pasta, cooked and drained

1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

1/2 cup firmly packed small fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup pitted black olives, sliced

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place cheese in center of 12-inch square of aluminum foil. Drizzle cheese with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Close foil package, twisting corners to seal. Place in baking pan; set aside.

In a quart baking dish, combine tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of the oil; toss to coat. Bake tomatoes and feta just until tomatoes are soft (about 15 minutes). Remove tomatoes and feta from oven and set aside, reserving any roasting juices. Cool food slightly. Open foil package, allowing steam to escape.

In large serving bowl, gently combine pasta with roasted tomatoes and feta. Add any roasting juices with the remaining oil, pine nuts, basil and olives. Lightly toss and serve.

Tomatoes Provencale, Serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 medium tomatoes, halved horizontally

salt and freshly ground pepper

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

1/4 cup minced parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a skillet over high heat or on a hot grill. When oil is nearly smoking, add tomatoes, cut side down. Lightly brown, then turn and cook just enough to heat them through (less than a minute). Remove from heat and place, cut side up, in oven-proof dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in small skillet; gently saute garlic until tender but not browned. Sprinkle tomatoes with garlic, bread crumbs, parsley and basil. Drizzle lightly with remaining olive oil. Run under preheated broiler; remove when bread crumbs begin to brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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