Though the players may seem familiar — there go those white beans and peak-season tomatoes again! — after “roasting the hell out of them” (the directions I usually give friends when they ask how I made them), they become something else entirely. Sometime so delicious, tears well up in my eyes remembering the last time we got to eat this. Like I said, I get a little carried away.
You start with cipollini (pronounced chip-oh-LEE-nee), or boiling onions. They’re different from regular pearl onions, they roast up sweeter and with no onion bite whatsoever; they soften up in a way you’d expect from root vegetables, becoming almost potato-like but never drying out. (They’re also to-die-for once balsamic glazed.) This is the only laborious part of the dish; you’ve got to peel the little guys first, but once you’re done, you’re home free.
Next comes the tomatoes, and on these I am super-particular because I love using mini-romas for this dish. You’re looking for something bigger than your average cherry tomato but smaller than a full-sized tomato; a farmers market at summer’s end will have an array of tomato sizes and shapes to choose from. I believe the right ones will call to you.
And save a few leaves of basil, slices of bread and a drained can of beans, the oven does all of the work — it blisters, it bursts the tomatoes and concentrates their juices, it caramelizes and contrasts the coarse salt, and makes you wonder why you have ever thought dinner need involve more than five ingredients.
Roasted Tomatoes and Cipollini
Serves four as a small dish, two as a main
1 pound cipollini onions
1 pound small Roma or large cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
4 slices of country or ciabatta bread, one-inch thick
1 15-ounce can of white beans, drained and rinsed or 1 1/2 cups cooked beans of your choice
Garlic clove (optional)
Few fresh basil leaves, slivered
Preheat oven to 375°F. Boil a small pot of water and blanche the cipollini for 10 seconds, then plunging them into cold water. Use a paring knife to make a small slit in each, and slide them out of their skins and outer layer.
Spread peeled onions and tomatoes in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and a few good pinches of coarse salt. Toss everything together until well-coated and roast in preheated oven for about 45 minutes, reaching in every 15 minutes with a spatula to roll the tomatoes and onions around to ensure all sides get blistered.
Just before you take the tomatoes and onions out, place your bread slices on the oven rack (or a tray, if you’re more refined than us) and let them toast lightly. You can rub the toasts with a halved garlic clove, if you like, while still hot. Use tongs to arrange toasts in one layer on a serving platter. Dump the white beans over the bread, and using a pot holder, scrape the entire contents of the tomato-and-onion roasting pan, still hot, over the white beans. Do not skimp on the juices that have collected, all of them — don’t leave any in the pan. They could make a religious person out of you.
Sprinkle the dish with the basil and eat at once.