Friday, January 29, 2010

Oven Dried Tomatoes

Should we have conceived of this endeavor earlier in 2009, we could have had the foresight to plan ahead and can tomatoes and other seasonal veggies. "Should." We didn't. Of course, like typical Americans, we want what we want, and we want it now. Unable to use canned tomatoes due to the restrictions of our "diet," we went in search of a way to make off season tomatoes slightly more tasty than a wet cardboard box. Almost every restaurant that I have worked at in the past made some form of dried tomatoes. The slow and extremely long cooking time dehydrates the fruits, extracting tasteless water and leaving behind only the most concentrated tomato essence.

This recipe can be accomplished in a gas oven or an electric oven -- sad to say, but we have an electric oven. It sucks for everyday use, but should "the big one" come, our building may not ignite. If you have a gas oven, feel free to leave the tomatoes in for the full 12 hours. Due to the heat from the pilot, they will be slightly more dried out than the electric version, but that's no problem at all. You may also pull them out a few hours earlier, if you like.

Once the tomatoes are finished, they can be used as the base for a sauce, stirred in with pasta, layered on your favorite sandwich, or as a replacement for canned tomatoes (ounce for ounce). With minimum active preparation time, these bad boys are well worth the effort.

10 plum tomatoes, sliced in half
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 sprigs thyme
olive oil, for drizzling
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Set the oven to 200 degrees. Set a cooling rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Place the tomato halves on the cooling rack.
2. Place 1 or 2 slices of garlic on each tomato. Top the garlic with a few leaves of thyme. Lightly drizzle them with olive oil. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.
3. "Dry" in the oven for 6 hours at 200 degrees. After 6 hours, turn off the oven but leave the tomatoes inside for 6 more hours.
4. Remove the tomatoes from the oven. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container, layered between sheets of parchment or waxed paper.

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