Gjelina's Tomato Confit
As an enormous fan of Gjelina, GTA, and Gjusta, I venture down to Venice several times a month to see what Chef Travis Lett is putting on the table. My butter mochi and summertime pizza posts were both inspired by the seasonal creations that I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy. The Gjelina cookbook is beautiful and packed with a number of favorites so I plan to post some of them here as I work my way through the recipes.
Tomato confit is an easy one to start with and also happens to be a foundational ingredient in many of Gjelina’s recipes. From Braised Tuscan Kale to Chicken & Escarole Soup, tomato confit adds depth and savory sweetness to any dish. I've even thrown a couple tablespoons into the pan when reheating pulled pork for tacos. A similarly easy and versatile recipe in the Chic Eats archives is Slow Roasted Tomatoes with Thyme and Garlic. As summer approaches and tomatoes take center stage, it’s worth stocking your fridge with these beauties.
What’s the Difference Between Roasted Tomatoes and Tomato Confit?
Confit is food (duck, bacon, tomatoes, etc.) that has been preserved by being cooked low and slow while submerged in a fat. On the other hand, roasted tomatoes are cooked using a light coating of oil and often at a higher temperature. In terms of flavor and texture, tomato confit has a pulpy mouthfeel, practically disintegrates when eaten, and the flavor is rounder thanks to the olive oil. Roasted tomatoes have more tooth and are intensely sweet.
Some of my cookbooks state that true confit is made with a bath of fat while others blur the line and suggest that confit also includes fruit preserved low and slow in simple syrup. The New York Times even weighed in on the subject in this article. Though I don't have a strong opinion on the subject, to maintain clarity I plan to call fruit preserved in simple syrup "candied fruit" and then "confit" will be a savory dish preserved in fat. Happy to be corrected, but that’s what I’m going with for now.
Farmers | Artisans
I make an effort to source my food from local California artisans with a special focus on the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Below is a list of the talented folks who contributed to this dish.
Ingredients (Adapted from the Gjelina cookbook - quantities slightly reduced)
- 2 pounds ripe tomatoes
- 8 cloves of garlic, smashed then peeled
- 7 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 cups quality olive oil
- Flake-style salt and freshly ground pepper
How to Peel Tomatoes
- Set up a large bowl with ice water.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- With a paring knife, cut a small “x” on the bottom of each tomato.
- Add tomatoes to the boiling water (working in manageable batches) and cook for 25 seconds.
- Immediately transfer the tomatoes to the ice bath.
- When cool enough to handle, start at the “x” and peel back the skin of the tomato with the paring knife. Discard skin.
- Core the tomatoes, cut into quarters, and remove as many of the seeds as possible taking care not to damage the tomato. Note: If your tomatoes are on the small side, cut them into halves or thirds instead of quarters. If the tomatoes are larger, increase the cuts accordingly. The idea is for the pieces to be big enough to hold up to the long cooking time but not so big that the tomato doesn't break down.
Assemble and Bake
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (to catch any drips).
- Move the oven rack to the middle position and pre-heat to 275. Note: Sometimes I get impatient halfway through cooking and raise the temperature to 300 to nudge things along.
- In an oven-safe dish, add the tomato wedges and sprinkle with flake-style salt. Note: It’s not part of the recipe, but the next time I make this dish, I plan to let the tomatoes and salt sit for maybe 15 minutes before proceeding. Then I will drain off any accumulated liquid and continue with the rest of the steps. I saw this technique mentioned in a different recipe and am wondering if reducing the water content a little might help concentrate the flavors even further.
- Evenly distribute the oregano, red pepper flakes, garlic, and thyme around the tomatoes.
- Add the oil, then nudge the herbs and garlic in between the tomatoes.
- Place on the lined baking sheet and bake for 3-4 hours. Note: The tomatoes will shrivel up and start to brown. I taste them along the way and stop cooking when a desirable flavor and texture has been achieved.
- Remove the thyme stems and then transfer everything to a glass storage container. Allow to cool, then seal up the container and store in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks. Note: As long as the tomatoes are submerged in the oil, they should last for quite a while. I sometimes freeze the tomato confit if we're going out of town.