Sun Dried Tomatoes

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In Italy, ripe plum tomatoes are dried in the hot sun. When dried, they look like shriveled red chili peppers and are wonderfully flavored since the drying process intensifies their natural sweetness and flavor.

Sun dried tomatoes should be used to give an extra flavor punch to a recipe instead of as a main ingredient. For example, a tablespoon or two will flavor a pasta dish for four. They can be used without additional cooking in garlicky pasta sauces, pizza, pasta salads, and with strongly flavored vegetables like broccoli or chicory. They work well in stir fries with chicken, beef, and shrimp or in rice, pasta, and grain salads.
Sun dried tomatoes are sold either loose in packages or packed in oil and are quite expensive. You can make them yourself by drying the tomatoes and varying the flavorings to suit your taste, using any combination of herbs that pleases you.
If you live in a sunny, dry climate you can dry tomatoes outdoors. Otherwise, an oven will do a fine job.

To Dry Plum Tomatoes in the Oven

Select perfect, ripe fresh Italian plum tomatoes.
Cut each in half and open like a book. Cut out the seeds, trim the stems, and cut out any blemishes.
Preheat the oven to 220°F. Place the tomatoes on racks on baking sheets. Sprinkle tomatoes lightly with salt. Bake for 7 hours. Rotate baking sheets in the oven during cooking time and remove smaller tomatoes as they dry.
Cool tomatoes and fold them closed.

To Dry Cherry Tomatoes

These smaller tomatoes are for pastas, pizzas, sauces, or garnishes.

Preheat oven to 450°F for 20 minutes.
Cut fresh red or yellow cherry tomatoes in half. Grease a cookie sheet with olive oil and place the tomatoes on the sheet, cut-sides up. If desired, sprinkle with herbs.
Place tomatoes in oven. Turn oven down to 350°F leave for 2 hours or until dried to your taste.

Storing Dried Tomatoes

After tomatoes have been dried, you can store them in an herb-flavored oil. To do this, pack dried tomatoes tightly in 1/2 pint jars with a layer of fresh herbs in between two layers of tomatoes. Cover with olive oil. Run a knife around the tomatoes to help air escape. Seal jars and store at room temperature for several months for best flavor.
After you've finished the tomatoes, you can reuse the remaining tomato flavored oil in pasta salads and for sautéing fresh vegetables.

From: The Low Cholesterol Olive Oil Cookbook by Sarah Schlesinger and Barbara Earnest; Villard Books, 1990

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