The above tagline is an oxymoron, right? I mean, the very phrase conjures up a notion of shortcuts, cheating, trickery and stealing, mostly of time to arrive at a slow-simmered result. But I love it. I can’t claim to have invented the tagline above, as it comes from the Wall Street Journal’s weekend food column,* but I’ve adopted it as my own simply because I live it each and every day. In the race to get meals (apparently you have to feed people THREE times a day!?) on the table with limited ingredients and even more limited time, the notion of anything laboriously made and slow-simmered is far from my mind.
And, I think I’m in pretty good company.
Rather than relying on celebrated “30 Minute Meals” and promises for “Quick and Easy” recipes, I try to dedicate my time and attention to one aspect of a meal, while leaving everything else super simple and straightforward. It’s absolutely cheating - I’m counting on the flavors of this one prioritized ingredient or preparation to carry the entire dish, but so far, no one has called me out on my deceit.
In the recipe below, I lavish my time and attention on marinated, roasted tomatoes, a great tool in the arsenal at any time of year, because this love can make even the most pallid grocery store specimen taste amazing. I take the time to cut the herbs, prepare a spice blend in my mortar and pestle (though the Cuisinart mini prep is a lifesaver, too!) and slowly oven-roast the tomatoes (while I do other things!) to guarantee they end up sweet and balanced. These morsels then appear in a chunky sauce ladled over simply prepared salmon and broiled asparagus. Later in the week, I use the leftover tomatoes smeared on sandwiches and folded into salad dressing for a sweet and herbaceous punch. The tomatoes take me a bit more time, care and attention to prepare, but their sweet and savory flavors are well worth the effort and contribute an elegance and finery to an otherwise 15 minute dinner.
Though I prefer to use cherry tomatoes both for cooking speed and texture, there are no hard and fast rules here – feel free to substitute larger hothouse tomatoes, but plan to increase your oven time to match.
3 pints cherry tomatoes (remember, the more you make the more you’ll have for later!)
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp Kosher salt
¼ c each of any of the following fresh herbs, loosely packed and de-stemmed, if necessary
1 tbl each of the following fresh herbs, loosely packed and destemmed, if necessary
¼ c olive oil, plus more for drizzling
zest of one lemon, preferably meyer variety
scant ¼ tsp red chili flake (if desired)
freshly ground pepper, to taste.
PREHEAT oven to 375, with rack in center.
SLICE tomatoes in half and place, cut side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
PLACE garlic and salt into mortar and pestle or mini food processor and GRIND to uniform paste.
ADD the herbs, beginning with thyme and/or oregano and adding larger herbs in batches until paste becomes thick and chunky.
When herbs are ground, add olive oil in small batches, grinding to integrate. When the herb paste is relatively smooth, like a thick pesto, FOLD in the lemon zest and chili flake, if desired, and spread the mixture over the cut tomatoes, using your hands to make sure each tomato gets covered in the herbs.
DRIZZLE with olive oil and dust with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
PLACE baking sheet in oven and ROAST, undisturbed for 15 minutes. When tomatoes are glistening and beginning to soften, stir mixture and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
REMOVE from oven and cool, pouring the tomatoes and all accumulated juices into a container for use in any way you can imagine!
*Let’s be real here, Slow Food Fast probably originated with some impossibly clever blogger/influencer/social media tycoon and has been appropriated and misappropriated ever since.