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What Are Sun-Dried Tomatoes?
Sun-dried tomatoes are tomatoes that have been dehydrated by being placed in the sun, a dehydrator, or an oven. When they’re dried, tomatoes shrink up, losing 90% of their weight from the loss of their water content. Sun-dried tomatoes are sweet, tangy, and chewy, and used to garnish dishes like salads and pasta.
How Are Sun-Dried Tomatoes Made?
Roma tomatoes, San Marzano, or smaller grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes can be used to make sun-dried tomatoes. Without their moisture, their flavor is amplified, boosting the taste of a dish.
- In the sun. Using the sun is the classic way to dry tomatoes like they once did on the rooftops of southern Italy. It’s a longer drying process, taking a minimum of several days. There’s less control over their environment: direct sun, high heat, and low humidity are necessary to get them just right. If you have the time, the place, and the right conditions, it’s worth trying this original method by halving them, sprinkling them with salt, and draping a cheesecloth over them (without letting it touch the tomatoes.) They need to be brought in overnight.
- In a dehydrator. A food dehydrator is similar to a slow-cooker: the tomatoes are dried with little or no intervention. With just six hours until they are ready. Set at 135 F, a dehydrator takes a fraction of the time as sun drying tomatoes.
- In an oven. Set at 250 F, tomatoes will dry out in 3-6 hours in the oven, depending on the consistency and texture you’re going for. The longer they are in the oven the more leathery they’ll get. The oven is a simple method using an appliance most people have access to with controlled conditions.
4 Ways Sun-Dried Tomatoes are Used in Cooking
These flavorful fruits retain all of the nutritional benefits of fresh tomatoes, delivering the flavor and nutrients in a more compact form. They’re a great source of vitamin C, vitamin K, lycopene, niacin, fiber, riboflavin, and antioxidants.
Like fresh tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes are used in so many recipes, adding a gluten-free additive to give a meal taste and texture. Here are a few of the endless ways to incorporate sun-dried tomatoes into everyday meals.
- Flavored. Sun-dried tomatoes are often preserved in olive oil with herbs like oregano. The tomatoes soak up some of the flavored oil, which adds more flavor to any dish they’re in, though it’s good to wipe off excess oil before using.
- Dressing. Sliced up small, sun-dried tomatoes are a popular addition to an oil and balsamic vinaigrette and poured over a crisp salad.
- Spread. Sun-dried tomatoes are popular in spreads. They can be the main ingredient. The tomatoes are pureed, mixed with herbs and oil, and spread over bread or roasted vegetables. They can be added to another spread, like olive tapenade.
- Cooked. Sun-dried tomatoes are flavorful either hot or cold. They pair well with roast chicken, can be thrown into a grilled panini, baked into bread, and even cooked with eggs.
How to Make Sun-Dried Tomatoes At Home in the Oven in 6 Easy Steps
Homemade sun-dried tomatoes are an easy food to prepare. All you need are tomatoes, salt, and an oven.
- Choose your tomatoes. Any type of tomato will work, but smaller varieties—like cherry or grape tomatoes—have less water and will dry out faster. Make sure to use enough. After drying, 20 pounds of tomatoes can shrink down to one pound of sun-dried tomatoes.
- Cut and prep. Give the tomatoes a quick rinse and dry. Then cut them. For smaller tomatoes, cut them in half. For larger ones, cut them in circular slices or lengthwise. Remove the seeds and juice.
- Rack. Place the tomato slices cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, or on a rack that lifts the tomatoes off the cookie sheet. A rack will dry both sides at the same time, eliminating the need to flip the tomatoes throughout cooking.
- Flavor. Sprinkle with sea salt. For more flavor, toss the slices in a bowl with herbs and olive oil.
- Bake. Cook the tomatoes for two-and-a-half hours at 250 F. Use a spatula to press out any lingering liquid. Flip them over. Bake for two more hours or as long as needed until dried, flipping as needed. The longer they dry the chewier they’ll be.
- Cool and store. Let the tomatoes cool to room temperature. They can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated, or placed in a Ziploc freezer bag and kept in the freezer. They’ll need to be soaked in warm water before using again. The most flavorful option is to put them in a mason jar covered in olive oil. Add garlic cloves and herbs, if desired.
3 Easy Recipes Using Sun-Dried tomatoes
From appetizers to the main course, vegetarian or vegan meals to roasted meats, sun-dried tomatoes are a versatile ingredient, pairing well with so many different dishes. Here are three easy recipes using sun-dried tomatoes.
- Sun-dried tomato pesto. In a tall glass jar combine olive oil, basil leaves, parmesan cheese, salt, pine nuts (optional), and sun-dried tomatoes. Mix together. Blend with a handheld blender or place ingredients together in a food processor until it creates a smooth sauce. Spoon over pasta.
- Orzo salad. This simple pasta salad can be served warm or cold. Cook orzo (or the pasta of your choice) and drain. Mix with olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese, black olives, and zucchini sautéed in olive oil.
- Roast chicken with sun-dried tomatoes. These succulent chicken breasts are brimming with juices and flavor. Use sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil. Pour them into a bowl, including some of the oil. Add lemon juice, basil, salt, and black pepper. Pour this mixture over the chicken in a skillet and sear for several minutes. Transfer to a roasting pan, unless using an oven-safe skillet, and bake for 30 minutes. This sun-dried tomato marinade can also be poured over a whole chicken, and rubbed under the skin, and roasted, cooking 20 minutes for every pound.
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