Roasting Tomatoes For Rich Flavor

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - October 12, 2005
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Auntie Pasto’s is a family restaurant, and owner Ed Wary especially likes children since he’s the proud father of three: Andrew, Ellie and Maddy. The son of a 100 percent Sicilian mother and a Polish father, he features his mother’s recipes on the menu whenever possible.

Ed also treats his employees like family, which explains why so many of them blossom under his tutelage and rise to new positions. One example of this is Faith Lathrop, who started working for Ed when she was a teenager, moving up to Dixie Grill on Ward Avenue, and then to Dixie Grill in Aiea. Now that Ed has opened Auntie Pasto’s in the Kunia Center, it was time for the top job. Faith now is general manager of her own location.

In keeping with the family tradition, it seems only right to use one of Gilda “Nana” Wary’s recipes for our dedication to Faith. Nana is 87 years old, and is still giving Ed her input at the restaurant whenever she visits. Here’s Nana’s tomato soup recipe to try at home.

Choose firm, unblemished fruit that has a deep red color, no wrinkles. The tomato should yield to light pressure from the fingers and have a pleasant aroma. Tomatoes can be kept for about a week at room temperature if not exposed to direct sunlight. If tomatoes are very ripe, store in the refrigerator in the vegetable compartment; for the best flavor, remove about 30 minutes before serving.

Tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C and potassium. They also contain folic acid and vitamin A. Lycopene is a pigment that gives tomatoes their characteristic red color, and is said to be a cancer-fighting antioxidant. Subsequent research has also found that lycopene reduces the amount of oxidized low-density lipoprotein - the so-called bad cholesterol - and therefore may reduce the risk of heart disease.


* 1 14-ounce can whole tomatoes
* 3 fresh plum tomatoes (also known as Roma tomatoes)
* 3/4 cup olive oil (may use less for lower fat content)
* 1 celery stalk, diced small
* 1 carrot, small, diced
* 1 yellow onion, diced small
* 2 garlic cloves
* 1 cup chicken broth
* 1 bay leaf * 2 tablespoons butter (may use Smart Balance, or use less butter for lower cholesterol)
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, packed
* 1/2 cup heavy cream (may use low-fat half and half)
* salt
and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Strain canned diced tomatoes in a wire mesh strainer for about 20 minutes to remove most of the juice. Save the juice. Spread the strained tomatoes and plum tomatoes on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with half the olive oil. Roast until caramelized (about 15-20 minutes).

In a large saucepan, heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Add the celery, carrots and onions. Cook until vegetables are slightly softened (about 10 minutes). Add garlic, roasted tomatoes, the reserved tomato juice, chicken stock, bay leaf and butter. Simmer until vegetables are very tender (about 45 minutes). Remove from heat. Remove bay leaf. Add basil and cream. Puree using the hand mixer (motor boat) until smooth. Serve warm with Parmesan chips or croutons to garnish.

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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