At the last moment, while there are still fresh tomatoes available at the farmers’ market for a teeny while longer, I decided to do Take 2 of the sun dried tomatoes I made last year about this time. In truth, I wasn’t super happy with that first batch of tomatoes – no particular reason, their flavor just didn’t sing. I recently came across this wonderful cookbook, Cucina Fresca: Italian food, simply prepared and served cold or at room temperature by Viana La Place and Evan Kleiman from 1985 (though there is a newer edition in print). Thumbing through this book, I saw some unusual and amazing sounding recipes – Red Wine Granita with Thyme; Watermelon and Wine (in which a watermelon is scooped out, filled with red wine and chopped watermelon, and the top is then put back on and sealed with melted wax in order to transport it unspilled to a picnic!); Riso e Frutta (mixed fruits with rice). Sounds amazing, right?
But I lingered on a recipe for Sun Dried Tomatoes and made note of a few key differences from what I did last year. Most notable was the small step of giving each piece of tomato a brief vinegar bath before adding it to the jar – just a quick dip (picture, above right).
Sun Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil (adapted from Cucina Fresca, by Viana La Place & Evan Kleiman)
- Vinegar (such as apple cider or red wine)
- Fresh herbs (optional)
- Good quality olive oil
- Sterilized glass jar with lid (Wash with warm, soapy water, rinse and place in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes. Remove with tongs and let drain and dry on a clean kitchen towel until ready to use)
Preheat oven to 200〫F. Slice tomatoes (I used plum tomatoes above) and lay in a single layer on a cookie sheet or glass casserole dish. Place in a preheated oven. Start checking after six hours – the tomatoes should be dried out, but not burnt.
Pour a few tablespoons of vinegar in a bowl and, using tongs or a fork, dip each tomato in the vinegar briefly before placing in the sterilized jar.
Add herbs, if using.
Add olive oil to cover (make sure the oil completely covers the tomatoes).
These tomatoes are wonderfully concentrated in their flavor – their taste is a combination of herby and oily with a slight hint of vinegar. They seem very versatile and there’s probably 100 ways to eat them, all quite delectable. But the first thing I did was to reheat some quinoa with a little butter, add a scooped out soft-boiled egg and top it all with a few of the tomatoes (along with some of their oil). Oh yes. I hope there’s more tomatoes at the market this week, because I only made a tiny batch (who knew they’d be so great?!) and I’m hoping to stock up my larder with a bigger jar. They ought to keep for months, either refrigerated or on a pantry shelf.
p.s. The leftover vinegar, with its little bits of suspended tomato, made a fine vinaigrette for a salad when mixed with some olive oil.