SunFest: Drying the Summer

This is officially my first blog post! Since I seem to be alone in the blogging universe, I  may as well take this time to pat myself on the back. Of course, I am excited to get going, although I anticipate many glitches along the way. But I figure that I will best learn by just pushing myself out the door. For my first EVER published recipe, I wanted to emphasize the themes that I will be exploring for the next year and into the far-off future. I hope you continue to read, explore and comment on my blog as I endeavor to succeed! Part of my project is to reap the local harvest as fully as possible. I think that local food should be accessible to everyone because, in reality, it can be! The goal is not to outdo myself with intricate recipes but rather to use what I have near me for inspiration. Food is delicious when it has a base with good and well made ingredients.

Tomatoes

SO, I made Sun Dried Tomatoes (technically slow-baked…but whos reading this anyway)! I thought it would be a perfect blend of my two main ideas: Slow Food, and local food. Making these tomatoes is indeed a slow process but above all, it stresses how much variety local food can give you and how you can make it last when it is not so plentiful. These tomatoes are from my own garden, grown by my parents.

To guestimate the oven temperature and times, I looked at the post from the blog, White On Rice. I found, however, that the time really depends on the oven and the degree to which you like your tomatoes dried! I took mine out after nearly 4 1/2 hours, but they may cook faster in a smaller, more efficient oven. It really depends. Anyway, set your oven from anywhere between 200-230° F.  You really can’t screw these up, just make sure to keep an eye on the baking. I have never been a tomato hater, unlike a lot of my friends, but I had never particularly relished the flavor of sun-dried tomatoes either. I often found that the flavor was too concentrated and sour. But, as it happens, I also often find that I can get over my aversions when something looks particularly delicious. I would say that the ruby red strips suspended in olive oil meets that requirement.

The Motley Crew

Wash your (hopefully fresh and local) tomatoes and remove the stems. From stem to bottom, cut 1 inch thick slices. For big tomatoes, you might want to halve these slices again. The size of the dried tomatoes is drastically smaller than the original so make sure that the slice is not too small. That being said, the bigger the slice, the more time it takes to dry. But no pressure! Once sliced, the tomatoes need to be de-seeded for the most part. The less gook=less time they take. Remember: if you have a compost that feeds into your or someone else’s garden, tomatoes seeds tend to run amok if casually tossed into an unsuspecting compost. Beware of their annual haunting! sliced and de-stemmed Lay the slices on a baking sheet and sprinkle with course salt. Allow to sit for 15-20. This process removes some of the moisture. This is the mantra: reduce the moisture, reduce the time. After salting, place them in a bowl. Add the oil, garlic, rosemary, pepper. Go as overboard on the spices as you wish adding or subtracting flavors to your heart’s content (I think that red pepper flakes or thyme would be a nice compliment) but stick with the amount of oil. An excess will cause a greasy outcome.

Toss delicately with a wooden spoon so as not to bruise or break the tomatoes. Once throughly mixed, place the slices on lightly oiled baking sheet. Since they will shrink, they can be almost touching.For a final touch, quickly drizzle balsamic vinegar on the tomatoes, each one receiving a couple drops at most. Slide into the oven and relax for the next 3 hours.

Just wait for the smells to come wafting into every orifice of your home! ready for bakingRemove when they are dried but not crunchy. You want them malleable but not moist, maybe softer in the middle and crisper on the edges. You want almost a beef jerky tenderness. Again, they should shrink by a third so don’t freak out when you have far less than you thought you would. This may take as much as 5 hours, depending on the function of your oven. These can be eaten fresh (maybe with ricotta on crackers) or can be saved, preserved in oil, for up to a week.

For flavor and beauty, add fresh rosemary sprigs and garlic to the oil. In the fridge, the oil with solidify but no worries, a quick zap in the microwave or drop in hot pasta or polenta is enough to thaw it.

 Sun Dried Tomatoes: Ingredients

5 lbs of tomatoes, de-stemmed and cut into inch wide slices

course salt, roughly a tbsp

7-8 tbsp olive oil

7 cloves of garlic, minced

2-3 tbsp fresh rosemary (or other herb), finely chopped

cracked pepper, to taste

Balsamic Vinegar

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