A Newfound Love

It all started when I innocently went to the grocery store to buy eggs, but of course (this is me we're talking about after all) I had to make a quick tour of the produce section before proceeding to the opposite corner of the store where the eggs are located. I was immediately rewarded as the first thing I saw was eggplant, red peppers, and asparagus on sale, "Yesss!" I thought, and then I saw it, an item rarely on sale in my grocery store this time of year, grape tomatoes. Some of you may not be impressed, thinking, "And what, is so special about grape tomatoes?" but that, I believe, is only because you have not yet experienced the transformational power of slow-roasting tomatoes. Seriously! I am not a raw tomato lover, I like salsas and bruschetta, but I would never eat a tomato raw on its own. Roasting is magic for almost any type of food; meat, fruit, but especially for vegetables, and the tomato is the epitome, at least the greatest yet that I have found.

Where were we? Oh yes, I bought the grape tomatoes, after doubling back to get the forgotten eggs, and practically skipped outside to my car thinking of all the great things that could be done with my pretty little tomatoes. I already knew from when I had purchased grape or cherry tomatoes last summer at the farmer's market that the best way to get my husband, a former veggiephobiac, to like them would be to roast them. On Saturday morning I did just that, only this was the first time I had ever slow roasted them as I had never had time before to do it properly. I preheated the oven to 450F, prepared the tomatoes as Nigella Lawson directs in her Moonblush Tomatoes recipe, put them in the heated oven and immediately turned the oven off and let them sit, without peeking, for about 7 hours. What came out was a glorious surprise. They were smaller, dry, and slightly shriveled, but when I curiously popped one in my mouth it was a happy surprise, followed by an operatic "Ahhhh!" sung in my head as I closed my eyes and gave a mini-jump of satisfaction. They reminded me of a sundried tomato, but sweeter and fresh. "Yes!" I thought, "I can't wait to have my veggie-timid husband try these! He's going to love them!"

Photo by Liz Parsons

I was inspired by my roasted tomatoes and decided to make a pizza of sorts with everying on it roasted. I searched my fridge and found some eggplant, zucchini, a half of an onion, mushrooms that needed to be used, some leftover chicken breast, and an open bag of wheat tortillas. Thus, the Roasted Vegetable Pizza was born. It had a crisp crust from the oven-toasted tortilla, a white parmesan sauce, sautéed chicken, and rich, full-bodied roasted veggies bedazzling the pizza like jewels.

Scott saw the above and immediately said "Now Whitney," (this is the beginning of his Cautionary Warning usually stated when there's lots of veggies involved or when the food is a bit more exotic looking) "I may not like this, Ok?" "Ok, Ok," I said, "but try it!" He timidly took a bite and said "Oh my gosh! What did you do!?" He loved it all and liked the tomatoes so much that when we were in the grocery store this week he asked if we could "please get more of those tomatoes that [I] did that "thing" with?" Hmm, Scott, asking for tomatoes??

Roasted Vegetable Pizza
(serves 2)

Moonblush Tomatoes:
1/2 pint grape or cherry tomatoes (you can do the whole pint at once by doubling the amounts below and use the rest in a salad with goat cheese or in Chicken Piccata with Pasta & Mushrooms like I did)
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 450F
  2. Slice the tomatoes in half and arrange them cut side up on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt, thyme, and sugar.
  3. Put the pan in the oven and immediately turn the oven off. Leave the tomatoes in the oven overnight or for a day without opening it

2 wheat tortillas
Spray olive oil

Parmesan Sauce:
1 or 2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk
1 Tbsp. flour
1/4 grated parmesan cheese

1/3 of a globe eggplant or all of an asian, sliced into 1/4 inch disks
1/4 zucchini, thinly sliced
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, quartered
1/2 small onion, sliced into rings
2 Tbsp. flour
salt and pepper

Start with the Moonblush tomatoes either early in the morning or the night before.

  1. Take tomatoes out of the oven and preheat to 4ooF.
  2. Slice eggplant and sprinkle with salt, after 20min. wipe off liquid with a paper towel.
  3. Meanwhile, spray both sides of the tortillas with a light coat of the olive oil and place side-by-side on a cookie sheet
  4. Put them in the oven for 5 minutes. When turning golden and crisp take them out and flip them over so the other side can crisp up for another 5 minutes.
  5. While tortillas crisp start preparing the toppings; slice the zucchini, onions, quarter the mushrooms and toss them all in extra virgin olive oil. Dredge the onions in 2 Tbsp flour.
  6. When tortillas are done remove from the baking sheet and arrange the eggplant, zucchini, onions, and mushrooms on the baking sheet and return to the oven now at 425F for 20min flipping and tossing the toppings halfway through so both sides are done evenly, the eggplant and zucchini should be very tender.
  7. While the veggies cook, salt and pepper the chicken breast and sautee in olive oil until cooked through, remove to a plate to cool. When cool break chicken into bite size pieces.
  8. To make the sauce saute the garlic in butter in a small sauce pan.
  9. When garlic has begun to turn golden add the milk and flour and whisk until the flour dissolves
  10. Heat the milk until it simmers to rid the sauce of the raw flour taste and then stir in the grated parmesan cheese until it melts
  11. Assemble the pizza! Place the tortillas back on the baking sheet, spread sauce over evenly and top with chicken and vegetables. Put the pan in the oven for another 5 min. or until everything is heated through
  12. Enjoy!