Oven Dried Tomatoes

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Sun-dried tomatoes have received a bad rap in recent years – perhaps because they were just about everywhere and in everything back in the '80's and early '90's or perhaps because most people have only tried commercial versions. That's too bad, because they really are a great product, especially when starting with good tomatoes. The best I can recall was when I was in Sicily back in 2002 at Anna Tasca Lanza's Tasca d'Almerita Regaleali Estate and Cooking School with Peggy Markel's Culinary Adventures. Of course they grew their own tomatoes and dried them in the glorious Sicilian sun, which I could swear I tasted in every bite. 

Unfortunately for tomato drying purposes, we don't have too much Sicilian style sunshine where I live, so actually drying tomatoes in the sun is not a very practical project. The good news is that drying them in an oven is very nearly as good.

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My wife bought a bushel of Juliette plum tomatoes from Linda Gifford at the Glens Falls Farmers Market and dried her own. She washed them, cut them in half, scored the backs of each half tomato and placed them on cookie racks with a little salt sprinkled over the tomatoes. She then placed them in the convection oven to roast at the lowest setting of 170ºF with the door propped just ajar to allow the exit of moisture. The duration can be quite variable depending on the amount of moisture in the tomatoes as well as the ambient environment. The object is to get a texture between leathery and brittle. It took her about 4-5 hours to get a great result.

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So forget about what you thought you knew or didn't like about sun-dried tomatoes, if you have never had freshly dried ones! So long as you have good plum tomatoes, it is pretty easy and they are oh, so good!


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