slow roast banadurah harrah + a pasta recipe

banadurah harrah tomatoes

If you live in a warm place, it may very well be peak tomato season where you are right now. And for the rest of us, it's just right around the corner (I'm currently visiting Chicago, where it will be peak tomato season in just a couple more weeks). So this blog post is basically just a public service announcement to do something with all those tomatoes while they are delicious and cheap. Eat as many as you can fresh, because summer tomatoes don't really need much to taste amazing. It's time to pile your plate high with tabbouleh, fattoush, pico de gallo, Jerusalem salad, and fresh banadurah harrah.

But don't forget to preserve some for the long tomatoless winter months. The whole concept of preservation might sound intimidating, but it actually doesn't have to be such a production. While canning is surprisingly a bit easier than I expected, at the end of the day, it is a labor of love, so I usually prefer to take advantage of freezer space instead. Besides, freezers can store things in ways that jars can't.

And while sauces and purées are fabulous, you can find really good ones in the supermarket in the middle of winter. So my favorite way to preserve tomatoes is by slow roasting, and then stashing them in the freezer. But rather than slow-roasting them at a very low temperature to turn them into homemade "sun-dried" tomatoes, I use a method that my friends Erin and Alvin taught me.

tomatoes
banadurah harrah tomatoes
banadurah harrah tomatoes
banadurah harrah tomatoes

You take a bunch of tomatoes, cut them in half, toss them in oil, herbs, spices, and salt, place them face-up on a sheet pan, and roast them at a moderately low temperature until their juices concentrate into a syrupy sauce, a little bit of which leaks out and caramelizes on the sheet pan. Then (the best part!), you freeze them in plastic bags, and pop them out of storage whenever you need to add a little extra umami flavor to something. You can add them to salads, beans, soups, quesadillas, sandwiches, and (my favorite!) pasta. When throw them into a pot of al dente noodles, they melt just a little, and turn into a very light pasta sauce, with a surprisingly bold flavor.

You can flavor these slow roast tomatoes any way you'd like, but I personally love flavoring them like banadurah harrah (which means spicy tomatoes in Lebanese Arabic). While you start out here with fresh mint, by the time they're done roasting, the flavor tastes much more like dried, which is key to many Middle Eastern flavor profiles.

If you're looking for more ways to use slow roast tomatoes, I've got them in several recipes, including my kuku sabzi-inspired frittata, green bean salad, masgouf, cornbread, and freekeh bowl.

banadurah harrah tomatoes
Slow roast banadurah harrah

Slow Roast Banadurah Harrah (Spicy tomatoes)

download a PDF to print

2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved *
1/4 cup fresh mint chiffonade
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 to 2 cloves garlic, crushed through a garlic press or finely minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt, to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)

  • Preheat the oven to 310° F.

  • Combine the cherry tomatoes, fresh mint, red pepper flakes, thyme, and garlic on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and mix with your hands to evenly coat. Turn the tomatoes so that they are cut-side-up and sprinkle with salt.

  • Roast for about 60 to 90 minutes, until the tomato juices concentrate (they’ll go from watery to syrupy). Open the door for a couple seconds about once every 30 minutes during cooking to let some steam escape (and to check on them). Very small cherry tomatoes may be done even earlier than 60 minutes, so keep an eye on them.

* You can easily do this with bigger tomatoes, but it will take longer, and you will need to significantly decrease the temperature toward the end so they don't burn.

Pasta with slow roast tomatoes

1 pound penne (or another pasta)
Slow roast banadurah harrah (above)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
4 to 8 ounces feta, cut into small cubes or crumbles
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh mint chiffonade

  • Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until it’s al dente.

  • Strain the pasta, add some slow roast tomatoes and a little bit of olive oil, and mix together until the tomatoes begin to dissolve a little.

  • Season to taste, and then add the feta and fresh mint, give it a stir, and serve immediately.

Slow roast banadurah harrah

Jerusalem salad pico de gallo

Jerusalem salad pico de gallo

My favorite way to make Jerusalem salad is to salt all the veggies, let them dry brine for about an hour, and then discard the liquid that the salt draws out of them. This softens everything very slightly, but the veggies still retain a lot of crunch, and it allows the flavorful lemon juice and olive oil dressing to cling to them instead of washing away with all those juices. But as much as I love this technique, pouring ingredients down the drain always makes me a little sad, even when the spare ingredients themselves are a little sad. (Like, when I first heard Hannibal Buress' Joke about flicking pickle juice on his sandwiches, I was laughing, but also taking notes).

So that's why I sometimes prefer to really lean into the wateriness, and turn Jerusalem salad into a salsa instead of a salad, especially this time of year when I could eat chips and salsa all day long. The faintly briny tomato and citrus juice makes pico de gallo so refreshing, whether scooped up with a tortilla chip or spooned over your favorite summer grilled dishes. And this recipe for Jerusalem salad pico de gallo combines the best of these two fresh summery dishes. There's both tomatoes and cucumbers, lemon and lime juice, parsley and cilantro, and (of course!) a little dried mint, plus all the ingredients these dishes share in common. Serve it as an appetizer with tortilla chips at your next backyard party, include it in your next meze menu, and if you have any leftover juice, don't forget to "flick it on your sandwiches for flavor." 

Jerusalem salad pico de gallo

Jerusalem salad pico de gallo

download a PDF to print
yield: about 5 cups
time: with a knife 30 minutes, with a food processor 5 minutes

  • 1 pound tomatoes

  • 10 to 12 ounce English cucumber (or small Persian cucumbers)

  • 1/2 of 1 medium/large red onion (or 1 very small red onion)

  • As many jalapeños (about 1 to 3) or hot peppers as you'd like, pith/seeds removed (or not removed!)

  • 1 small bunch parsley (about 1/4 cup minced)

  • 1 small bunch cilantro (about 1/4 cup minced)

  • 1 teaspoon dried mint (or 1 teaspoon fresh minced)

  • 3 tablespoons lime juice

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

  • 1 large clove garlic, crushed through a press or finely minced (feel free to add 1 more if you love garlic)

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

  1. Finely dice the tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and hot peppers, and place them with their juices in a mixing bowl. Feel free to use a food processor to do this, but the final presentation will be rougher than carefully dicing with a sharp knife (it's a time saver though). To use a food processor, pulse each ingredient separately until it's finely chopped (be careful not to let it run too long or you'll turn it into a purée.

  2. Wash and dry the parsley and cilantro, and then finely mince them (do not use a food processor for this). Add them to the mixing bowl (reserving a pinch for garnish), along with the dried mint, lime juice, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Adjust the seasoning to taste (taste it with a tortilla chip—if your chips are salty, you might not want to add any more seasoning).

  3. Garnish with the reserved herbs and serve. If you're making this for company, you can make it the day before and it'll still be wonderful the next day. But leftovers for your own midnight snacking will stay really tasty for a few more days.

Jerusalem salad pico de gallo