It started one Sunday morning last summer when Richard went to pick up bagels and bialys at Gjusta. If you’re not familiar with it, Gjusta is a twee bakery/eatery in Venice, Calif., little sister of Gjelina, so the twee is deep in its DNA. Their goods are very good, so it’s an indulgence we happily pay for.
Most of the time.
This particular Sunday, as I rooted through the bag, I discovered Richard made a detour from the usual salmon spread for his bialys.
“How much was this?” I asked, holding up a tiny deli cup of Roma tomatoes lounging in olive oil. Last summer, even before inflation sent food prices skyrocketing this year, I knew this itty-bitty thing probably cost a kidney.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he demurred.
“I could make this, you know,” I said. “There’s not much to it.”
“Go for it,” he laughed.
And so began our Tomato Confit Summer, which continued well into November (thanks, climate change). And it picked up again this year with the return of tomato season. Every couple of weeks, I get a couple of pounds of tomatoes and make a batch of this confit. It requires minimal skill – if you can halve some tomatoes, you can make this — and yields great reward.
We mostly plow through them on crusty bread, sometimes atop burrata or mashed avocado. But I’ll also coarsely chop up some of the tomatoes and garlic, and warm that up in a pan with some of the oil from the jar and a spoonful of Calabrian chile paste for a rustic pasta sauce.
Stupid-Easy Tomato Confit
Halve about 2 pounds tomatoes. You want a meaty variety, like Roma, Early Girl or Costoluto. Sometimes you’ll see these labeled as “paste” tomatoes at the farmers’ market. Arrange these, cut side up, in a snug single layer in baking dish. Tuck in lots of peeled garlic cloves. How many? That’s up to you – measure those with your heart, as they say. Drizzle with a lot of olive oil. How much? Depends on size of your pan and how many tomatoes you’ve got, but you want them resting in a generous puddle of oil. Sprinkle generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake at 300°F for 1 hour or until the tomatoes and garlic are very tender. Cool, and transfer to a quart-size jar, along with any oil and juices in the bottom of the pan. Refrigerate up to 2 weeks or freeze up to 2 months.
Makes about 1 quart.