“If life gives you tiny beautiful yellow farmers market tomatoes, turn them into a lifeless sticky pulp.” This is the type of thought that made sense to me after I purchased a pint of these babies less than 24 hours before leaving town for 5 days.
“Juicy wonderful gushy tomatoes? Yes! I’ll dry them out until they’re only a shred of what they once were!”
After bringing our prizes home from the farmers market, and after stuffing as many fresh little guys down our gullets as the fiancé and I could, my desperate thinking actually went something like this… “I know! I’ll oven dry them. Then they’ll last forever!! Well, at least a few days…” What I didn’t think through was the fact that already tiny tomatoes only get tinier when you spend four hours extracting all of their juices. Face palm.
I tried the little yellow guys in two varieties–garlic lemon and the more classic herbed version. I ended up scraping all the lemon garlic ones right onto my plate for “testing,” but the others ended up in this cute little jar, their brown carcases pretty deceiving. They are actually little “flavor bombs,” just like this America’s Test Kitchen recipe foretold. It’s just that they’re so…little.
To try to make up for my folly, I tried this oven drying business again with larger red vine tomatoes, and voila! …they still shrunk a lot. -_- Heh…Despite the four hour ordeal these became, they are so good in pasta or salad. They are also SUPER tasty thrown into the cooking water with rice or couscous or barley.
Tip 1: Do this with A LOT of tomatoes. Like, more than you think you can eat off the pan when you smell them (because this will happen). Think of it as spinach–the huge bag shrinks down into one little cup–except it takes about 10 times as long.
Tip 2: Listen to Italian tunes while preparing these tomatoes. It will get you in the right mood and make you feel very authentic for spending hours tending the little morsels.
Tip 3: Try not to think too much about the implications of turning the slow Italian process of sun-drying into a quick little jig you can achieve in the comfort of your home. It might make you feel inauthentic, or worse–commercial. As if these little morsels are a hot commodity with the power to make you–cultured. D:
PS – I have no pictures of the finished babies because I threw them all into a gnocchi dish immediately and ate the rest off the pan. WHICH is why I recommend doing this in bulk or keeping a friend nearby for moral support. Here’s the shaky phone picture I took in a craze to eat this most delicious of meals…
Oven-Dried Tomatoes, Two Ways
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Keep in mind that this is a recipe that might require and is flexible to a lot of improvising. You may want to alter the seasonings, and you may need to change the oven temperature to account for how quickly your tomatoes are drying. Like ATK, I agree that saving the juices is a pretty brilliant idea–I turned the nectar into a pasta sauce. I do think the amount of juice you get will depend on the water content of your tomatoes, though. I also wonder if drying them over a rack wouldn’t make it easier to collect the juices?
About 4 lbs. vine ripened or Roma tomatoes, cored and cut in half
About 1 ½ cups olive oil (for drizzling and storing)
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Oven 425 F
1. Preheat oven. Meanwhile, prepare tomatoes and sprinkle cut sides with garlic, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil so that each tomato gets some, but not so that they are swimming in it. (Most of the 1 ½ cups of olive oil are for storage–that’s later.) Flip the tomatoes over, so they are cut side down on the sheet pan.
2. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until skins are beginning to shrivel and brown. Use tongs to pull skins off (they should come away easily–if they don’t, cook them some more).
3. Reduce heat to 275 F (although ATK recommends 300 F, mine burned at that temperature!). Put peeled tomatoes back in oven, cut side down, for about 30 minutes. Pour off juices (reserve for other purposes if you want), flip tomatoes so that the cut side is up, and return to oven.
4. From this point on, your job is to watch the tomatoes, pour off juices, repeat, until they are as shriveled up as you want them. If they begin to blacken or brown on the edges, turn down the oven. I turned mine all the way down to 225 F partway through. This could take up to three more hours, but I only cooked mine for about 2 more hours–I liked the little bit of juices left in them.
5. When cooled, store them in a glass dish, cover in olive oil, and refrigerate. Or, freeze them (no olive oil) in baggies.
Alternate Lemon Garlic version (sooo good)
1 pint cherry tomatoes (the little guys), cut in half
1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon dried basil
Juice of ½ a lemon (or more, to taste)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toss all ingredients together in a bowl, flip to cut side down, and use process above. Watch temperatures, as you may need to further reduce the heat to prevent burning.
Note: I did not remove the peels, because they are so tiny that if you try this, there will be nothing left but a pulpy, centimeter-sized mush, and also because the peels on tiny tomatoes are not that tough.