Preserve Summer’s Bounty with Tomato Confit
Tomato confit is a condiment I will always associate with summers in Paris. If you visit Paris in July or August, these tomatoes are omnipresent at bistros across the city. To me, tomato confit epitomises the best of French cuisine — elegance and simplicity.
You may wonder at my use of the word simplicity, because many people think of French cuisine as synonymous with rich, complicated sauces and sophisticated pastries. Of course, those things are part of the French culinary repertoire. They are also gastronomic achievements of which the French are justifiably proud.
However, when I eat in France, I am always struck by the ability of even the humblest French chef to take the finest seasonal ingredients and — with a few simple techniques — transform them into something unique and exquisite. Tomato confit is just such a dish.
It is an easy way to preserve and enhance summer’s finest tomatoes. The process of slowly oven drying the tomatoes concentrates their rich flavours, while the garlic and herbs contrast with the tomatoes’ natural sweetness. The result is much better than the sum of its parts.
Thus, a good tomato confit is delicately balanced — simultaneously savoury, sweet, and tart. It is a condiment that beautifully complements just about anything else on the table — from burgers to roast chicken. Once you prepare it, you will find yourself adding tomato confit to tarts, sandwiches, and everything else on your menu — much like a good French bistro.
Tomato confit is very easy to make and is a perfect project for a novice cook. Most of the time involved in preparing it is oven time — rather than active time. So, this is a great condiment to make on a day when you are at home for a few hours.
I like to make tomato confit with a mixture of heirloom cherry tomatoes. They dry quickly, and their various colours are both pretty and nutritious. However, you can use whichever tomatoes are at their peak in your area, regardless of colour.
Just ensure that you cut the tomatoes to be roughly the same size. Smaller ones can be halved, while slightly larger ones should be cut into four pieces. This attention to detail will ensure that all the tomatoes dry in roughly the same amount of time.
I have used both thyme and rosemary in my recipe. However, if you only have one or the other available, don’t worry. Both herbs are not essential, they’re just nice to have — if possible.
If you’re not fond of garlic, you can eliminate it. Not every cook makes tomato confit with garlic. I add the garlic because I like the flavour it infuses into both the tomatoes and the olive oil they soak in — which is delicious drizzled on sandwiches in lieu of mayonnaise.