These tomatoes are studs. Let’s not mince words about it. They are tomatoes about town.
They’re bowtied with thyme and lemon verbena, appropriately liquored up with a little vermouth. And they come to you with loose dinner plate morals, hardly capable of sticking to one dish.
They were spread on charcoal-grilled flatbread. They were smashed on a rosemary boule slice over a thin layer of goat cheese. They cozied up nicely with a melty ten-dollar burrata.
They were even thrown impulsively into a workday lacinato kale salad designed to swallow up dinner leftovers. I have wanted to toss them with homemade fettuccini and some thick low count shrimp, but they have yet to make the leap to full dinner fork-on-plate contact. Gone before the pasta water could reach a rolling boil.
So thus far, they’ve been capable of staying only long enough for antipasti. No matter. Not every tomato dish you meet can be lasagna. Sure, they’re homey enough. For a night. Don’t expect comfy leftovers. They’re drinking in the vermouth. And they’re sneaking out the door at five am.
What they’ll do is dress up anything in need of momentary glitz. They go into a hot pan with some extra virgin until they start to bust their guts. Then in goes the vermouth and a spoonful of sugar of an unrefined sort. Think demerara. Muscovado. Even a simple brown will do. When the sugar cooks down, they’re ready.
Just take these guys for what they are. A light tomato primer with a hint of caramelized sweetness and just a bit depth, courtesy of a nice thin veil of booze. Ready to go on a moment’s notice. Easy to make, again and again. And perfect for using up the last lingering orbs on a cherry tomato plant.
Low hanging fruit? Sure. But sometimes that’s just what you need to close out summer.
Vermouth Cherry Tomatoes, Caramelized
Adapted from Food52
a few glugs of olive oil
pint of cherry tomatoes
2-4 tbsp vermouth (I used Rosso)
1-2 tbsp of a brown sugar (like muscovado)
a few sprigs of lemon verbena
a few sprigs of thyme
Get a sauté pan fairly hot and add in a few glugs of olive oil and then dump in your cherry tomatoes. (You want enough olive oil to put a nice gloss on your tomatoes, so add more as needed.) Salt your tomatoes and let them cook down, tossing them in the pan every so often, until the tomatoes start to bust open; this will take about 10 minutes, give or take.
Once the tomatoes start to split, take the pan off the heat and add the vermouth, starting with a few tablespoons. Put the pan back on the heat to let the vermouth cook down, add a little more vermouth (you could also use water here) if the tomatoes start to stick or dry up. Once the majority of the liquid has been cooked off, add in the brown sugar, shaking the pan to distribute it. Let the sugar dissolve and coat the tomatoes, this should only take a few minutes. (Again, add more liquid if your tomatoes are looking parched.)
Add the lemon verbena and thyme leaves. Taste the tomatoes and add a little more vermouth, sugar, and/or salt, as you see fit. (If you decide to add a little more vermouth, you’ll need to let it cook down again but this should only take a few minutes.) From here on out, the tomatoes are ready when you say so. (I like the tomatoes to have softened and split, while still holding on to their shape.) Top with a few more herb leaves, if desired.
Makes about a cup
-This is another recipe that functions best in a “splash of this” “dash of that” fashion. Because cherry tomatoes may vary in sweetness or acidity you may find you need slightly more vermouth and a little less sugar or vice versa. The sweetness will also depend on the type of vermouth you use, Rosso being on the sweeter side of things. It’s not a recipe to be taken too seriously, so adapt as you go.
-A number of herbs could work here. Oregano would likely do good things. Food52 suggests marjoram. I tried basil one round, but found it made the tomatoes a tad too sweet for my taste. The dish benefits from an herb with a little more contrast.