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BY LAUREN CHATTMAN
As you peruse the farmers market for apples and pumpkins, don't forget the last of the local tomatoes.
During this pleasant end-of-summer, late harvest varieties have had the chance to fully develop that combination of acidity, sweetness, and meatiness which is so difficult to describe but so easy to love.
The bins may not be overflowing, but the tomatoes picked at the very end of September after spending the entire summer on the vine will likely be the best of the year.
The question is: What to do with them this late in the season? Late harvest tomatoes are already bursting with flavor, and oven roasting concentrates this flavor powerfully.
Unlike sun-dried tomatoes, which often taste overwhelmingly like salt and other preservatives in which they are packed, oven-roasted tomatoes have a fresh and pure tomato zing.
Oven-roasting eliminates excess water from tomatoes without drying them out, so they are quite different from sun-dried tomatoes in texture as well--plump rather than shriveled, toothsome but never leathery.
The method is simple. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty foil (no clean up), quarter the tomatoes and toss them with some salt and olive oil, and roast them in a 350-degree oven until they're wrinkled and collapsed but not dehydrated, 30 to 45 minutes, depending on their size.
I imagined several appealing uses for my roasted tomatoes:
I could spoon them onto bowls of soft polenta enriched with butter and Parmesan cheese.
Toss them with spaghetti and olive oil.
Scramble them with some eggs and goat cheese.
But the oven was already on, so I forged ahead with my scones.
I gently squeezed most of the remaining juice from the tomato pieces before chopping them, so I wouldn't be adding too much extra liquid to the dough.
Because my oven-roasted tomatoes had enough personality to stand up to other assertive ingredients, I added a handful of shredded sharp Cheddar cheese to the dough along with mustard powder, mustard seeds and a little Dijon mustard.
For the sake of tenderness, I made sure to use well-chilled butter, took care not to overmix the dough, and patted it into a circle rather than risk toughening it with a rolling pin before cutting it into wedges.
Baking the scones in a very hot oven encouraged an impressively high rise.
TOMATO, CHEDDAR CHEESE AND MUSTARD-SEED SCONES
1 pound tomatoes, cored and quartered