Oven-Dried Tomatoes

by Daisy on 07/29/2008

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Dear Ivory,

I love the chicken house!! And the photo–the wind gently swaying the willow. I feel transported to the–you know, that area of land of low topographic relief supporting grasses and herbs and having a mesic climate–what is it called? Never mind, it’ll come to me.

I love the chickens!! They are such big girls now. We never even had a chick shower, and here they are little lady pullets. I am such a bad friend. What should I get them? Grubs? I have grubs.

On a more appetizing note, I have been up to my ears in tiny tomatoes. So I had better dry them up.

Here’s my old friend ready for another day’s work. This 30-something Harvest Gold workhorse was the Cadillac Brougham of the 1970’s kitchen, and it is still motoring along in mine. Why mess with a good thing? It’ll come back in style . . . someday.

Anyway, today it is doing something that is sure to bring it into, well, the early 90’s at least: oven-dried tomatoes. Got to put up those bowls of little grape and cherry jewels from the garden before they go south.

Mmmm. They are coming in faster than we can eat ’em and I don’t want to waste a single one. I know you are just dying to know how I do it:

Step 1: Wash them if they need it. Mine generally don’t. They go straight from the vine into the bowl.

Step 2: Cleave in twain.

Step 3: Arrange cut side up in oven safe containers like these Pyrex pans or cookie sheets or other baking dishes. I let them touch, but it would probably be better to give them a little more space for air circulation.

Step 4: Put in the oven at 170-200 degrees, depending on the intensity of your oven. Mine is kinda mellow, baby, so I can crank it up to the 200 degree mark, but I don’t have an oven thermometer, so use your best judgment. Check the tomatoes fairly often. They shouldn’t be just going to town in there, sizzle-wise. If they are, turn the heat down a bit.

Here they are after about two hours:


Mine take about 5 to 6 hours to dry. I start taking the little ones on the edge out a little earlier and rearranging the remaining ones toward the edges so they will dry faster. I let mine cool and store them in the freezer. You wouldn’t have to freeze them if you make sure they are absolutely dry and leathery, but I inevitably have a few that are a little squishy so I just pack them into freezer containers to be sure. But if there was a power outage I wouldn’t worry about them. They are really quite dry. I am just a bit overcautious. They have a sweet, rich tomato flavor and are quite irresistible. Maybe that’s the real reason I keep them in the freezer, out of the way. Then there are plenty for this recipe:

Dried-Tomato Hummus

1 (15 oz.) can chick peas, drained

1/2 cup dried tomatoes, reconstituted and minced

1/4 cup tahini

1/8 cup lemon or lime juice

2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro (or whatever you have fresh that would be good, I used lime basil–my cilantro is coriander here in July)

2 Tablespoons finely minced onion

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

1 clove garlic, minced or pressed

1-2 teaspoons ground cumin, to taste

1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

Olive oil

To reconstitute: Boil enough water to cover the amount of tomatoes for your recipe. Pour the water over the tomatoes in a bowl and let sit for about three minutes or until they are the degree of softness you prefer. Drain. There you go.

Puree chick peas and dried tomatoes with the tahini and lemon juice. You can do this with a stick blender, food processor, blender, or even a potato masher if you don’t mind expending a lot of elbow grease. Stir in remaining ingredients. Stir in a drizzle of olive oil and serve as an appetizer with fresh or toasted pita wedges.

I think I am going to try to figure out how to take advantage of this heat and make a solar dehydrator. I didn’t wear shoes outside to take the pic of the tomatoes and the driveway nearly seared the skin off the soles of my feet. Besides, my oven range could use a break. I think it was smokin’ a little bit on the way home from the disco last night.

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