As someone perpetually sliding around in the gauzy formlessess of liminal spaces — or at least, as someone who feels this way — or, at least, as someone who once heard the word “liminal” and really latched onto it without being 100% confident of deploying the word accurately and yet still blithely using it several times a day — I find myself drawn to recipes which occupy more than one space, not quite a side, not quite a main, able to be raked through linguine or spooned over bowls of various grains, or maybe just eaten on their own with nothing before or after. Recipes like the Chickpeas Diabolique, or Roasted Zucchini with Spinach-Peanut Pesto, or Salt and Vinegar Beans, or Vegetables a là Grecque, or today’s recipe, the equally nebulous but compelling Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Cherry Tomato Dressing. Is it a side? How many does it serve? I don’t know! Is it delicious? Of course! Why else would we be here!
That being said, if you’re someone who quite reasonably likes to know where you stand, it might help to think of this as a definite side dish, or as a potential pasta sauce, having eaten it as both I can assure you of its success in either regard. Infuriatingly, but with weary predictability, despite it being the middle of summer the cherry tomatoes were stupidly expensive (for full transparency: two punnets of cherry tomatoes, a garlic bulb, a bottle of lemon juice because there were no lemons, and a basil plant cost twenty-two literal dollars) but because I had this idea in my head already and because supermarkets, themselves quite the liminal space, send me into a kind of automaton trance where I dazedly make stupid financial decisions in the name of feeding myself (although to be fair these days it’s hard to buy anything at the supermarket, even the driest bag of lentils, without it being a stupid financial decision), I bought the lot and proceeded with this recipe.
Anyway, enough of the requisite cantankerous captiousness at the state of supermarket prices; what does the dish taste like? As the title claims, it’s pretty simple: roasted cherry tomatoes, with a few unroasted tomatoes plucked out and whizzed up into a peachy-yellow dressing with lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil, then poured back over their friends, so you get this mix of summer-sweet, glorious intensity from the roasted tomatoes and glibly fresh, raw zestiness from the raw tomatoes in the dressing and all that lemon juice. The two opposites meld together gorgeously, aided by the dusky richness of basil leaves bobbing handsomely on the surface like boats in a harbour at sunset. It’s a soft, messy dish with a lot of sauce between that which springs from the tomatoes in the oven and all the dressing, should you not know quite what to do with it I’d just get a spoon and some bread and use the two to empty and wipe the roasting dish completely of every last drop. Looking at that mess of red, yellow and vivid green, it’s easy to forget that tomatoes are more expensive than diamonds and it has rained every single day of 2023, tasting it solidifies this even more so.
Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Cherry Tomato Dressing
Simple and gorgeous, tastes like a rising sun, and ready to eat on its own or to be stirred through pasta. Recipe by myself.
- 2 punnets cherry tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 cherry tomatoes (from one of the above punnets)
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- hearty pinch of salt
- a handful of fresh basil leaves, to serve
1: Set your oven to 210C/420F. Remove six cherry tomatoes from one of your punnets and tumble the remaining cherry tomatoes into a shallow roasting dish into which they fit fairly snugly. You can halve some of the tomatoes if you want — I halved roughly a third of them before losing interest. Drizzle over the tablespoon of olive oil and roast the tomatoes for fifteen minutes or until they’ve softened and buckled in on themselves a little, at which point they’ll also release a decent amount of juice into the roasting dish.
2: While the tomatoes are roasting, get on with the dressing. Halve the six cherry tomatoes that you set aside earlier, and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. (A slightly fiddly job and I apologise! But you do get to eat the seeds as you go, at least.) Throw the halved and emptied cherry tomatoes in a blender with the peeled garlic clove, the two tablespoons of lemon juice, the four tablespoons of olive oil, the half teaspoon of sugar and a good pinch of salt. Blend it up into a frothy, pale-orange dressing, and taste to see if it needs any balancing of salt, sweet, or sour.
3: Once the tomatoes are done in the oven, pour over the dressing — you don’t need to stir it, but if you want to go for a mere nudge and lift, rather than a vigorous folding — and scatter over the basil leaves.
Serves 1—2, though it depends on how you dish it up. As a side dish, it could serve three to four, but more if there are a lot of dishes; or two to three when stirred through pasta or spooned over polenta, et cetera.
- Weirdly I could not find lemons at any supermarkets near me, which just adds to that feeling of losing grip on reality that confronts me whenever I do groceries; if you can get hold of one I would encourage you to strip off the zest before juicing it and to scatter it over the tomatoes at the end along with the basil.
- If you only have a really large blender you might struggle to whizz up such a small quantity of ingredients, in which case a stick blender would be a lot easier, if you have neither then you could try pushing the tomatoes through a sieve or just really finely chopping and mashing them along with the garlic clove before stirring in the remaining ingredients.
Sleep Walk by Santo and Johnny. There’s something about a beautiful instrumental piece of pop that occupies the same space in my brain as a beautiful piece of classical music; it evokes a mood and suggests a story with nothing more than notes and chord progressions, and listening to this glorious tune — and even if you don’t recognise the name, you’ve probably heard it — spins dozens of different stories, all poignant and atmospheric.
Manchild by Neneh Cherry, when those synths come in like a shiver up the spine, yes! To say nothing of the prescient lyrics!
Blues From a Gun by The Jesus and Mary Chain, part of the genre of music that I would describe, in this current economy, as “irresponsibly exciting”.
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