The other day, I mentioned the box of San Marzano tomatoes I brought home. Most of them ended up peeled, chopped, and bagged for the freezer. But, a few of them were set aside for oven roasting, and is there a sweeter, more lovely tomato flavor than what you get from slow roasting? Store-bought, sun-dried tomatoes are intensely tomato-flavored and that's perfectly nice too, but with oven roasting, you can stop the process at any point to retain a little moisture for a semi-dried effect. The result is a cross between the chewy, completely dried variety and juicy, fresh tomatoes. This dish is from Plenty which has become my go-to source for dishes with great flavor and no meat. In the book, Castelluccio lentils are suggested, and the new bulk section at our Whole Foods offers a plethora of dried bean varieties but no Castelluccios. Instead, I found black, beluga lentils which are a cute, little size and nice, dark color and worked just as well for this. Another good option would be Puy lentils.
Slow roasting tomatoes in a 250 degree F oven will take an hour and a half to two hours depending on the size of the tomatoes and the moisture content. The tomatoes were cut in half, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkled with thyme leaves and salt. Just keep checking in on them after about an hour and fifteen minutes until they've reached the semi-dried state you prefer. I roasted the tomatoes a couple of days in advance and stored them in a container in the refrigerator with the oil and vinegar scraped into the container with them. When I was ready to complete the dish, red onion was thinly sliced and left in a bowl with red wine vinegar and salt while everything else was prepped. The black beluga lentils were cooked in plain water for about fifteen to twenty minutes until just tender. They were drained and added to the red onion slices. Olive oil, minced garlic, and black pepper were added, and that was left until the lentils were cool. The original recipe calls for chervil, chives, and dill, but I used garlic chives from my garden and flat-leaf parsley. The chopped herbs were added to the cooled lentils and everything was tossed to combine. The roasted tomatoes along with chunks of Gorgonzola were added to the lentils as the dish was plated, and I served it on a bed of arugula leaves.
With the bite of Gorgonzola and the fabulousness I've already mentioned of oven-roasted tomatoes, this is no shy, vegetarian dish. Simple, earthy lentils carried both well, and the herbs added fresh flavors. My only regret here is that I didn't buy several more pounds of San Marzanos and another freezer for storing them.