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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sun Dried or Fried?

What’s left in your tomato patch? Ripening fruit or green tomatoes, which leaves only one question remaining – is it sunny dried or fried? If you are lucky enough to still see a few stragglers changing color, a great way to use the last batch of your tomato patch is to turn them into sun-dried tomatoes. The best tomatoes to use are Roma or San Marzano. The San Marzano is a tough variety to grow but well worth the flavor, producing primo fruit for sauce and sun-dried recipes.

So now the question is - are you ready to start sun drying those tomatoes? You can begin this recipe right before you hit the hay. Let’s get to the tomatoes. Trim any bad parts off the fruit, cutting them in half, length-wise. Toss the tomatoes in a bowl of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, enough to coat the skins but not so much the tomatoes swim. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil (which makes for easy clean-up.) Place the cut tomatoes, seed side facing up on cookie sheet. Bake in oven overnight at 190 degrees. The tomatoes are done when the fruit is firm; not mushy and not too dry. Shrinkage should be about half of the tomatoes’ original size. Now it’s time to pack the sun-dried tomatoes with additional olive oil. You can either can and seal or keep the sun-dried tomatoes in a zip-lock bag. If you do the latter, you must use up the refrigerated portions within a couple of weeks. Those are the basic steps to sun drying your tomatoes. But here’s an accidental recipe I discovered this weekend when substituting our sun-dried tomatoes for tomato paste in a shrimp marinade. Less the shrimp, this marinade added to your sun-dried tomatoes is a perfect compliment to any meat, fish or poultry recipe.

So here’s the extra marinade:

1 cup olive oil
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce (A must – so don’t leave out.)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano (I used my infamous dried spearmint.)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper (I grind whole peppercorns crushed in a coffee grinder used only for spices.)

That’s the marindade. Let your sun-dried tomatoes marinate in this mix for at least 30 minutes using a zip-lock bag or covered bowl. These babies are ready to use or you can get the canning operations underway and keep those marinated sun-dried tomatoes packed away for winter culinary surprises.

What a perfect ending for our summer tomatoes. And the perfect quote to end today’s post comes from one of my favorite Italian chefs, Mario Batali. “You know, when you get your first asparagus, or your first acorn squash, or your first really good tomato of the season, those are the moments that define the cook's year. I get more excited by that than anything else.” So keep the summer excitement going and savor those last really good tomatoes of the season. With two choices – sun-dried or green and fried, what would you choose? I like my tomatoes sunny-dried up! 

Image of a batch of sun-dried tomatoes just out of the oven by Ann Bilowz

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© 2009 Ann St. Jean-Bilowz/Bilowz Associates Inc. (including all photographs, unless otherwise noted in Annie's Gardening Corner are the property of Bilowz Associates Inc. and shall not be reproduced in any manner nor are they to be assigned to any third party without the expressed written permission and consent of Bilowz Associates Inc.)