Late Season Tomato Confit

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Sniff! Sniff! The sad last tomatoes, mainly from south Jersey, are rolling into the farmers markets around town. Woody, bruised, low on flavor, and often as pale as if they'd been suffering from the flu, they are nonetheless your last chance to eat local tomatoes until the scarlet fruit reappears next June.

Well, here's a trick to both preserve them and improve the flavor. We're going to make delicious tomato confit. Cut each tomato into16 or so irregular pieces. With the tip of the knife, scrape out as many seeds with their surrounding jelly as you can, but don't be too careful. Lay the tomato fragments out on a greased cookie sheet, baking pan, or cast-iron skillet, making sure they are well spread out. This allows the liquid to evaporate without becoming a lake and effectively poaching your confit.

Pour olive oil generously over the tops of the fragments, dust with salt (the fancier the salt, the

better the flavor - I use coarse gros sel that a friend brought back from Brittany), and strew some finely chopped garlic over the top. Finally, if you want to cheat nature a bit, sprinkle on just a little bit of white sugar. Shove in an oven pre-heated to 250 degrees. Roast for two hours, or until the tomatoes shrink, darken, and start to brown slightly on the edges.

When finished, the confit can be frozen, or kept in a sealed jar in the fridge for at least two weeks. Even better, eat it right away with some fresh ricotta on a toasted baguette. Or toss with spaghetti, olive oil, and parmesan cheese. You can also reconstitute the confit with water, broth, or white wine to make a bright-tasting sauce that will remind you of the flavor of ripe tomatoes at the height of their season.

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