Sheep’s Cheeses with Oven-Dried Tomatoes
and Toasted Almonds
You don’t need a special dryer to make these exquisite half-dried tomatoes, which are far more succulent and flavorful than the fully-dried commercial varieties. After 8 hours in a low oven, halved plum tomatoes will be wrinkled and shrunken but moist and intense, the flavor concentrating as water evaporates. Serve them with a selection of sheep’s milk cheeses—your choice but aim for a variety of textures—and some toasted almonds. From The Cheese Course by Janet Fletcher (Chronicle Books).
For the tomatoes:
- 6 meaty plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise (about 1 pound)
- 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher or sea salt
- 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
For the almonds:
- 1 cup whole unblanched almonds (about 5 ounces)
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
- Two to three sheep’s milk cheeses such as pecorino Toscano, Manchego, Roquefort, Ossau-Iraty or Fat Bottom Girl
Prepare the tomatoes: Preheat the oven to 250°F. Put the tomatoes in a non-aluminum baking dish. Drizzle with the olive oil. Season with salt and herbs, crumbling the herbs between your fingers to release their fragrance. Bake until the tomatoes are soft, wrinkled and shrunken, but still moist, about 8 hours. Set aside to cool.
Prepare the almonds: Raise the oven temperature to 325°F.
Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the almonds and blanch 1 minute, then drain. Immediately transfer the nuts to a clean dish towel and wrap the towel around them. Vigorously rub the nuts in the towel to loosen the skins. By hand, remove any skins that don’t come loose; they should peel off easily. Transfer the skinned nuts to a baking sheet. Rub with the olive oil and season with salt. Bake until golden-brown and fragrant, about 30 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to cool.
To serve, arrange the cheeses on a cheese board and pass the tomatoes and almonds separately. Alternatively, divide the cheese, tomatoes and almonds among individual plates.