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Southern Road Trip, Part I {With Caramelized Tomatoes}

We were hungry for dinner when we pulled up to our hotel in Nashville on Saturday night.

In a perfect world, we would have checked in quickly, dropped our bags in the room, and taken a cab downtown.

But we weren’t in a perfect world.  We were in the lobby of the Holiday Inn, standing in front of a woman named Billy Jean who welcomed us to our 25th high school reunion.

We probably should have corrected her right then, before the misunderstanding went any further.  Like, before she handed us the free drink coupons.  But Billy Jean’s adrenalin was contagious.  She was pumped.  I got the feeling she had put a lot of time into this.  She had reserved the reception room.  She had designed the sign.  She had gotten there early to run the streamers, inexplicably, from the plastic chandelier to the elevator area.  It seemed kind of wrong to walk away from her after all that, you know?

So we didn’t.  Which means that technically, we crashed a high school reunion.

But is it really “crashing” if you’re in and out of there in 10 minutes?  If you don’t put a fake name on the name tag?  How about if you drink your one free cocktail while hiding behind the fish tank in the lobby?

I tipped the bartender, FYI.  I have manners, y’all.

Here are some iPhone pictures of us behaving well on our little road trip.  We’re not in them, but you get the gist.

First we stopped in Scotsboro for lunch.

We spent a day at the Chattanooga aquarium, which I’ll tell you about later.  And eventually we danced our butts off in Nashville.

The next morning, we stopped at The Loveless Cafe for brunch.

And when we got back to Alabama on Sunday, I made some caramelized tomatoes.  They were so good I’d feed them to company.  Even Billy Jean, who has a standing invitation to come to dinner at our house anytime she wants.

Caramelized Tomatoes {Download & Print Recipe}

Adapted from Seriously Simple, by Diane Rossen Worthington

These tomatoes aren’t watery like some other oven-baked tomatoes I’ve had, because you move the skillet to the stove top and reduce the juices to a syrup.  The finished tomatoes are packed with concentrated tomato flavor–a little sweet and very robust.


4 large tomatoes

2 tsp. olive oil

1 tsp. sugar

a sprinkle of kosher salt


Heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Dig your knife into the top of the tomatoes to remove the top part of the core.  (See photo).  Put the tomatoes into an oven-proof skillet or gratin dish that’s small enough to fit them snugly.  Sprinkle the tomatoes with the remaining ingredients.

Roast the tomatoes in the oven for an hour or longer, until they have browned, broken down, and released their juices into the dish.

Take the dish out of the oven and place it on the stove top as is (i.e. with the tomatoes and juices in there.)  Cook over medium heat so that the tomato juices bubble and reduce to a glaze.  Depending on your tomatoes, this could take 10-15 minutes.  Don’t disturb the tomatoes too much (you don’t have to stir them) and don’t spoon the juice over the tomatoes until it’s a glaze that coats the back of a spoon like a syrup.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serving Suggestions

Serve as a side dish to chicken or fish, or with eggs, or on a sandwich with any kind of cheese, or at breakfast with eggs.

21 Comments Post a comment

    August 29, 2012
    • Thank you Conxita! I hope you get to make them soon.

      August 29, 2012
  2. best.story.ever.
    and I love your photos!! especially the tomato on the scale!!


    August 29, 2012
    • That scale turned out to be a good purchase indeed. I’m so glad we went to that antique store!

      August 29, 2012
  3. Amy #

    Billy Jean really should have recognized you (or realized you couldn’t be recognized) so it’s really not wrong for you to crash the party. Glad you got yourself a drink out of it.

    I’ve never seen anything like these tomatoes before! Usually I don’t really like raw tomatoes, and I don’t like them cooked because they’re watery (with the exception of tomato sauce), but I think this may just be a dish I could like 🙂 This sounds like it makes for a messy pan clean-up though…did you have to scrape it clean? I wish I had a cast iron pan like you.

    August 29, 2012
    • You know, I didn’t have any trouble with the pan, Amy, but I don’t know if that was just the cast iron. I did make them once in a tart dish in the oven (one of those white ceramic things) and then transferred them to a skillet for the stove-top part, and that worked fine too. I just got that Lodge brand cast iron recently. I like it a lot because the sides are taller than a Le Creuset, but I have to be careful to wipe it out with oil after I use it or it immediately gets rusty (unlike a Le Creuset). Anyway–hope all’s well with you!

      August 29, 2012
  4. Love it! I was sitting here reading your post and you made me snort! And the tomatoes! You know, I’ve never been much of a fan of them (other than the mutant-looking heirloom ones), but I just might break out my cast iron pan for this recipe — they look scrump-del-i-ish-ous! And love, love, love the photo of that single tomato on the scale and the pooches — almost made me want to hug ’em =)

    August 29, 2012
    • Christina, I made these with mutant heirloom ones last week, too! It was great. I also made it once using red zebra tomatoes from the farmer’s market–they were smaller than a regular tomato but maybe 4-5 times the size of a cherry tomato. They were really good caramelized as well, but they got really concentrated. I prefer a big tomato in this recipe. Anyway, if you try it I hope you like it! I just got that scale at an antique shop in Franklin, Tennessee last weekend. It’s 1/4 of a pound off, so we need to tare it, but otherwise it’s awesome.

      August 29, 2012
  5. Oh! I love the idea of reducing the juices down! Why can’t I come up with stuff like that? I’m glad you had the decency to slink away with your ill gotten gains before that lady had you up on stage belting out the alma mater. I also hope you two weren’t the only ones who showed up. Because that would be very sad…

    August 29, 2012
    • Aw, I just read about your little man not being able to eat grilled cheese and whatnot this week. That must be tough. Just think–someday he’ll have a 25th high school reunion! Let’s hope he’s not the sort to, like, steal drinks or anything. That would be. . . terrible.

      August 31, 2012
  6. Yum. Roasted tomatoes are on of my favorite parts of a proper English breakfast. Well, that and the morning beer.

    Do you think there’s any benefit to eating them with the skins on? I tend to pick tomato skins out of things because they’re tough. Does this cooking method mellow them out some?

    August 29, 2012
    • Penny, I hear you on the tomato skins–and I have a few thoughts. First of all, I barely notice the skins on these, because you’re right–the caramelizing did seem to mellow it out to a paper-thin consistency that wasn’t tough. But secondly, you could slip the tomato right out of its skin (probably in once piece) in 2 seconds if you cooked it this way. I don’t know if there’s any health benefit to the skins, like there is for potatoes and such. I definitely wouldn’t remove the skin before roasting, or the tomato would basically melt all over the place at that high heat. And I, personally, would serve them in the skins because I think they’re really pretty that way, all crinkly and browned and whatnot. But yeah– I ate them with the skins on, whereas I always try to get rid of the peel in other recipes. If you turned these into a soup, you could always caramelize them, remove the skin, and puree the rest with some broth. . . yum!

      August 29, 2012
  7. I’m sure those tomatoes are SMACK YO’ MAMA GOOD!!! Wooooo ‘oo Weeeeeee!

    Weeeeeee doggies!!! (When you say this out loud, be sure to close your eyes and think of The Andy Griffith Show.)

    August 29, 2012
    • I mentioned your site to someone last week. I get such a kick out of it! Your profile picture makes me happy every time I see it!

      August 29, 2012
      • YOU are smack yo’ mama good, too, then, little missy! Thanks for the shout out and the compliment!

        My day is now complete. Time for a snooze….

        August 30, 2012
  8. a #

    I love tomatoes…but not roasted tomatoes. I don’t know why. But we are thinking about a trip to Nashville, so thanks for the free drink tip! 😉

    August 29, 2012
    • I LOVED Nashville. It’s so easy to find really good country music cover bands and dance the night away. The food was fantastic, too. I’ve got loads more recommendations from friends who live there, so we can email before you go and chat.

      August 31, 2012
  9. WHAT IS UP WITH THOSE PHOTOS?! They are the cat’s pyjamas.

    I didn’t go to my high school reunion. It was being held at The Top Hat. A bar my parents told me not to ever go to. Because of the drinkin’ and fightin’. Of course, in my town, there were just as many fights at McDonalds, so maybe I should have gone. NOW, if it had been held at the Holiday Inn? With streamers? I would have gone. Here’s hoping they move my 25 year reunion to a town with hotels…

    The tomatoes look major.

    August 30, 2012
    • My mom would have fuh-reaked out about The Top Hat if I had come to visit you as a kid. And she would have made sure you never went near the Dunkin’ Donuts at night in our town if you had visited. There were a couple stabbings back in the 80s and my mom practically cordoned off that entire half of town and didn’t let me go near it until I was 25.

      August 31, 2012
  10. Your tomato pictures are FABULOUS! Feel like I could reach in and grab a bite!

    September 1, 2012
  11. Those tomatoes look amazinggg…. Genius idea.

    November 3, 2012

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