Although tomatoes are available throughout the United States year-round, their best growing season is May through October. Often, “forced” winter varieties arrive in stores as hard as a rock and flavorless. When that happens, and you must have a tomato, there’s only one thing to do: tomato confit.
Just as confit can preserve the most perfect summer tomato when September crops are abundant and sweet, it can also rescue a winter tomato that was unwillingly born into the world, bitter and stubborn.
“Confit” — it sounds so sophisticated, doesn’t it? To the contrary, it’s an easy technique; it means to preserve by being salted and cooked slowly in fat, most often referring to duck, which cooks in its own fat. For vegetables, we have to add fat, in this case, olive oil.
As the technique suggests, thick slices of tomato are cooked in luscious olive oil with salt and herbs. After a long, warm stay in a dry oven, the tomatoes literally ooze a sweet, caramelized, complex flavor.
Tomato confit is perfect for antipasto, in sandwiches and salads. The tomatoes can be pureed for a roasted tomato soup, a tapenade spread or a roasted tomato sauce.
Step 1: Prep
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Add chopped garlic to the olive oil and set aside. Slice each tomato into approximately quarter-inch-thick rounds — you should be able to get five slices out of each tomato. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush the parchment with a generous layer of olive oil.
Step 2: Season
Place each tomato slice on the parchment in a single layer. Tomatoes will shrink in the oven, so it’s OK if they’re touching, but do not overlap. Remove the garlic chunks from the oil. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil evenly over the tomato slices, using the basting brush as needed to saturate each tomato. Use all of the oil, even if it’s running over the sides of the tomato slices. Lightly sprinkle kosher salt over each tomato slice, followed by cracked black pepper. Lay each of the full rosemary sprigs over as many of the tomatoes as possible. Do not separate the leaves from stem — use the whole sprig so the flavor is infused without bits of leaf.
Step 3: Roast
Roast in the oven for 25 minutes. Check the tomatoes — if they’re not slightly caramelized and soft, leave them in the oven for another 10 minutes. Repeat until they’re soft and jam-like, but not burnt. Remove the rosemary sprigs after roasting and discard.
Step 4: Enjoy
Store tomato confit in the refrigerator for up to seven days.