My first apartment was in Portland, Oregon. I was in college and paying $335 a month for a studio (a fact that makes me tear up a little bit when I think about my current rent, that is until I then remember the ants, that were followed by the mice . . . ). In a very hip neighborhood in very hip Portland, my apartment was above a vegan diner and a vintage shop, while across the street was Stumptown coffee (their French-press coffee got me started using a French press at home, and apart from a short fling with a Bialetti, I’ve made my coffee that way ever since). My friend Katie lived down the hall, above a second-run movie theater, and when she got fed up with hearing Phantom of the Opera come through her floor, we’d go out, or she’d come over for dinner.
Many of our favorite restaurants are still around: Hoda’s for Lebanese food served with freshly baked pitas, Dots Cafe for cheese fries, Zell’s Cafe for brunch (my favorite was scrambled eggs with brie, tomatoes, and scallions), and the Pied Cow Coffeehouse for espresso floats. But usually one of us would cook. It was nothing fancy—cheap and easy vegetarian student food—lentil soup, zucchini with tomato sauce and cheese, sauteed cabbage and onion with egg. Katie’s go-to cookbook was Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (which I also own and love) and mine was Joe Famularo’s A Cook’s Tour of Italy (now out of print, but still available). Reading and cooking Famularo’s recipes, organized into menus from each region of Italy, felt like an almost adequate substitute for traveling. One recipe I kept coming back to was for slow-roasted San Marzano tomatoes, which took three hours in the oven and which we’d finally devour with hunks of baguette.
This recipe is my variation on that old standard, and preparing and eating it makes me just a little nostalgic for my first apartment—grubby carpet, $3 Charles Shaw wine, pink fringed lampshade, and all. Well, almost all. Not the mice! But the price. Price not mice. Oh dear. Here’s that recipe.
Slow-Roasted Plum Tomatoes with Olive Oil and Herbs
- 2 lbs fresh plum tomatoes
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- 1 plump clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- salt and pepper
serves 2 to 4
- Preheat oven to 325°. Using a sharp paring knife, score a shallow “X” into the bottom of each tomato. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and boil tomatoes, a few at a time, for 30 seconds before removing with a slotted spoon. When the tomatoes have cooled slightly, peel off the skins and discard them. Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise, and gently squeeze out the seeds. Set tomatoes aside.
- In an 8 x 8 square baking dish, sprinkle the shallot, garlic, rosemary, and parsley. Place the tomatoes on top in a single layer, wedging any extra tomatoes along the edges of the pan. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the tomatoes, salt and pepper liberally. Drizzle olive oil evenly over tomatoes. Bake at 325° for 2 to 2.5 hours, until tops of tomatoes begin to brown and caramelize. Let cool slightly before serving with bread or over angel hair pasta.