We recently enjoyed a cheese plate at a restaurant, where a hard goat cheese was paired with a tomato garnish. At first, we asked the bartender who served us if he could swap the tomatoes with something else (the figs looked good), but he insisted. And when we tasted them, we realized there was something different going on. They were spiked with cinnamon... When we try to recreate a restaurant dish at home, we usually end up with some sort of variation that's not exact but just as good. That's the case here. It's not a carbon copy, but it's an unexpected combination that will definitely be featured on our future cheese plates. The tomatoes turn out barely sweet and with just enough spicy cinnamon to contrast with a cheese but not remind us of Christmas cookies.
We noticed jalapeño in the restaurant tomatoes, so we added that. Then we prepared the tomatoes two different ways: We stewed them for a while with the cinnamon and jalapeño and also left them uncooked, sautéeing the jalapeño and cinnamon briefly and adding them to the canned tomatoes.
We liked the second version better — the cinnamon was brighter, and the consistency was lighter than the jammy, stewed tomatoes. This little condiment takes less than five minutes to pull together, and if you don't want to serve it with cheese, we think it would taste great stirred into some buttery pasta.
serves 8-10 as an appetizer
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 of a medium-sized jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper
Drain the tomatoes and put in a medium bowl.
Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan on medium heat. Add the jalapeño, season with a pinch of salt, and and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, allowing the jalapeño to soften and mellow a bit. Add the cinnamon, cook for 30 seconds, and remove from heat.
Add the jalapeño and cinnamon mixture to the tomatoes, then add the sugar. Stir to combine, and add more salt and pepper to taste.
(Image: Elizabeth Passarella)