15-18 Roma tomatoes (bigger is better for this recipe)*
1/3 c. blended canola & olive oil
About 1 t. kosher or sea salt
5-6 stems each fresh rosemary & thyme
Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Coat the bottom of a full size sheet tray or two half sheets with pan spray. Cut romas in half lengthwise and place, cut side up, on the trays. It's fine, in fact preferable, for them to be touching since uncovered areas on the tray may get dark. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. The flavors will intensify over time, so salt less than you ordinarily would (I've learned this the hard way!) Strew herbs evenly over the tomatoes.
Place in the middle of the oven and cook for about 5 hours or until the tomatoes are dryish and caramelized around the edges. I suggest checking them at 4 hours, then 20 minutes intervals after that – you may want to remove some of the tomatoes around the edges first as they will usually cook faster.
You can use the tomatoes with the baked goat cheese, but they're also great in pasta dishes, salads, as a side dish, ot topped with oiled, herbed bread crumbs and baked for an additional 15 minutes at 350 degrees.
For roasted garlic:
10-12 large cloves of garlic
1-2 cups of good olive oil (not crazy expensive)
Place garlic and oil in sauté pan and place over low flame. Bring garlic to a very low simmer. Watch carefully after about 20 minutes. Cook garlic until it is a light golden brown color, then remove from oil with a slotted spoon. Let oil cool, then remove to a jar for use in salads and sautés.
1 baguette, cut on the bias in 1 inch slices
Salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place baguette slices on baking sheet and brush each one generously with oil. Sprinkle each with salt & pepper. Bake for about 3 minutes on each side. Toasts should be light golden brown. Remove from tray after baking so they do not continue to cook and harden.
Putting it all together:
2 logs goat cheese, cut into half inch circles
Few sprigs fresh rosemary & thyme
Salt & pepper
Good olive oil
Oven-dried tomatoes & roasted garlic
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Oil bottom of small casserole or gratin dish. Place cheese slices in a spiral pattern, laying slightly on top of each other, until you have a complete circle. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Surround cheese with roasted tomatoes and scatter garlic cloves over all. Strew with herbs. At this point, if you have it, top cheese with cracked black pepper or even black pepper and a few cracked pink peppercorns. Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until goat cheese is warm and slightly melted and tomatoes are warm as well.
Enjoy by spreading soft garlic on crostini toasts, then spreading cheese and topping with tomatoes. You may drizzle with some of your reserved garlic oil.
*by far the best and least expensive place to buy Roma tomatoes are the local farmers' markets. Charlotte has several, from the large Regional market on Yorkmont Road, to Simpsons' Farmers' market on Kings Drive, to the small Mecklenburg County market on Harding Place to the Atherton market in South End.
Remember to try some local goat and other cheeses in your recipes, such as Bosky Acres from Waxhaw and from Goat Lady farm and Carolina Creamery.
You can also pick up fresh, shelled lima beans at the farmers' market at this time of the year and use them with your crostini toasts for another Springtime appetizer, lima bean hummus. (recipe follows)
Lima Bean Hummus:
2 bags fresh baby lima beans
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, smashed with side of a large knife
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Simmer first 5 ingredients together in sauce pan for about 8 minutes or until beans are tender. Stir in cilantro and parsley and let stand uncovered with heat off for about 5 minutes for the beans to absorb additional flavor. Drain, then place mixture in food processor. Add cumin, cayenne, 3 T. lemon juice, 4 T. olive oil, and dill and mint. Process until smooth. Remove to bowl and let cool completely, stirring occasionally. Season with salt & pepper and add reserved lemon juice to taste. Drizzle with additional olive oil. Serve with crostini toasts and enjoy the season!