Unless you’re blessed with a budget for greenhouse-grown produce year-round, chances are that you’ll find yourself having to settle for mealy, lackluster tomatoes during the cold winter months.
But even the saddest tomatoes utterly transform after a quick roast in the oven. The sugars break down and caramelize, leaving you with a delicious sweet and tangy delight still fit (and pretty enough) for a salad. To call this a “recipe” is hardly fair — it’s more like a simple trick to save your your taste buds from the horrors of gristly winter tomatoes.
You can roast your tomatoes any way you’d like. The recipe below calls for topping with melted mozzarella, but at the suggestion of Chef Irene Yager, I made a version with minced garlic drizzled with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper at her Southern Italian cooking class at the Manhattan JCC.
To serve at Shabbat lunch, cook the tomatoes in advance and plate day-of. To chiffonade your basil, gather several leaves and roll tightly (like you’re rolling a joint, as one class participant remarked), then slice into thin ribbons.
Winter Caprese Salad
Recipe by Chef Irene Yager
1 loaf baguette, cut into ½-inch thick slices (about 30 to 36 slices)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 bunch of fresh basil leaves, stemmed
Freshly ground black pepper
1) Preheat the oven to 450˚ Fahrenheit. Spray a round glass baking dish with olive oil.
2) Place tomatoes in a single layer in the pan. Arrange sliced baguette on a separate baking sheet.
3) Top tomatoes with grated mozzarella (or olive oil and balsamic vinegar along with other spices).
4) Bake bread for 5 minutes, until golden and crisp. Bake tomatoes for 15 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.
5) Arrange sliced mozzarella and tomatoes atop baguette slices. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and pinch of basil.