These sweet and spicy little numbers are a perfect side dish for any meal - and wonderful over pasta, too. I usually serve them hot, but they are good at room temperature, and a nice addition to a picnic basket.

This is a very easy dish, and since the tomatoes finish cooking in the oven, you don't have to keep a constant watch over them while preparing the rest of your meal. I always include them on my Christmas dinner menu - not only are they delicious, they look great on the plate.

Sherried Cherry Tomatoes

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (approximately)
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, diced
1-1/2 pints (about the 600 ml mark) cherry tomatoes1
2 tablespoons dry sherry2
1 teaspoon white granulated cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red (hot chili) pepper flakes
Salt to taste (a generous pinch is probably enough)

Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C, gas mark 5).3

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high flame. Add the olive oil - be sure there's enough for a generous coating of the pan. When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to soften; add the garlic, sherry, red pepper flakes, sugar and salt, stirring to evenly distribute all ingredients. Add the cherry tomatoes, making sure to completely coat them with the oil and seasonings.

Move the tomatoes from your skillet to a shallow baking dish, spooning any extra oil and seasoning from your pan over them. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until tomato skins just start to blister. You can remove from the oven before the blister stage if a firmer texture is desired; they will be sweeter with longer cooking, but do watch for signs of burning or over-browned garlic.

1Buy extra tomatoes so you can discard any that aren't ripe. If you have a few extra, don't worry; there's enough oil mixture to coat a larger quantity.
2You can substitute a nice, mellow vinegar for the sherry.
3I have cooked these at a slightly lower temperature, adjusting the baking time - handy when you need to cook two items in one oven.

Credit where credit is due: based on a recipe created by Rachael Ray.

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