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Wonder no more: What to do with  last of the summer’s tomatoes

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  • In making tomato, Cheddar and mustard seed scones, patting the scone dough into a circle is an easy way to shape scones and helps keep them tender<br/>NEWSDAY

    In making tomato, Cheddar and mustard seed scones, patting the scone dough into a circle is an easy way to shape scones and helps keep them tender
    NEWSDAY Purchase photo reprints »

  • For a shiny finish, tomato, cheddar, and mustard seed scones are brushed with beaten egg before baking. (Eve Bishop/Newsday/MCT)

    For a shiny finish, tomato, cheddar, and mustard seed scones are brushed with beaten egg before baking. (Eve Bishop/Newsday/MCT) Purchase photo reprints »

  • In making tomato, Cheddar and mustard seed scones, patting the scone dough into a circle is an easy way to shape scones and helps keep them tender<br/>NEWSDAY
  • For a shiny finish, tomato, cheddar, and mustard seed scones are brushed with beaten egg before baking. (Eve Bishop/Newsday/MCT)

As you peruse the farm market for apples and pumpkins, don’t forget the last of the local tomatoes.

During this exceptionally sunny 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, or 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

Makes 6

1 pound tomatoes, cored and quartered

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt, divided

Ground black pepper

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons dry mustard

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes and chilled

4 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

¼ cup mustard seeds

¾ cup milk

2 large eggs, lightly beaten, plus 1 large egg, lightly beaten, for brushing tops of scones

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the tomatoes, olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and ground black pepper to taste in a bowl and transfer to baking sheet in a single layer. Roast until softened and wrinkled, 30 to 45 minutes. Let cool, squeeze the juices from the tomatoes and discard. Then coarsely chop the tomatoes.

Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, dry mustard, sugar, baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the chilled butter pieces and mix with an electric mixer on low speed until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in cheese and mustard seeds until distributed. Stir in the milk, 2 eggs and Dijon mustard until dry ingredients are just moistened. Stir in the tomatoes. Do not overmix.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide in half. Shape each half into a 6-inch disk. Use a sharp chef’s knife or bench scraper to cut each disk into 6 wedges. Place wedges ½ inch apart on a prepared a baking sheet. Brush he tops with the remaining egg. Bake until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm, or let cool completely.

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