When life gave me five pounds of crappy supermarket tomatoes last week, I considered tossing them. But, as often happens, my thrifty Soviet housewife side came through. What do you mean toss them, I thought. My grandmother almost starved to death during World War II—I can’t waste food. Growing up, I often heard the saying “a Soviet housewife can make candy out of s#*t,” meaning, of course, that Russian women developed a knack for making good food using inferior ingredients. These days it’s all about the fresh, local and organic, but resourceful cooks will find a home for those squishy or wilted vegetables. Waste is for amateurs.
Here’s an example: It often surprises me how much the most underripe, out-of-season supermarket tomatoes benefit from roasting. I’ve blogged about successfully roasting cherry tomatoes, but even the usually useless Roma and beefsteak tomatoes are pretty good after some time in the oven. All you do is slice them up and put them in a foil-lined pan with a couple of teaspoons of salt, a teaspoon of sugar, and a good splash each of red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Add some red pepper flakes and ground pepper, too, if you like. I usually toss in a handful of peeled garlic cloves. Roast at 400 for an hour, an hour and a half. The tomatoes will release a lot of juice; they’re done when the liquid evaporates and the tomatoes are shrunken and blistery. Let cool; they taste best at room temperature.
I often add these to salads, but they’re limitless in their use. This time I roasted some red and orange peppers alongside and made pepper and tomato salad the next day. And here's another recipe that promises to transform winter tomatoes into something edible.