I don’t like raw tomatoes—something about the texture, the squishiness. But the farmer’s market is just bursting with beautiful ‘heirloom’ varieties right now (including these darling little Purple Cherokee tomatoes, with their green striped tops), and I want in on the fun. Enter: Oven-dried tomatoes.
Oven-dried tomatoes are like sun-dried tomatoes, only you can dry them in your kitchen (and, subsequently, save money on buying pre-dried tomatoes, which are generally much pricier than the fresh kind. The Purple Foodie says oven-drying is the same as sun-drying tomatoes, “except that it doesn’t sound as fancy and the job gets done a lot quicker!”
Oven-drying works particularly well for really fresh, flavorful tomatoes, because drying them helps concentrate their flavor (though the key is to dry them just enough that they get a little sweet and chewy, not totally baked). And though drying tomatoes robs them of the water-soluble vitamins, such as B and C, the lycopene content of tomatoes increases when dried (lycopene is an antioxidant found in only a few fruits and vegetables that may help prevent heart disease and some cancers), while minerals, fiber content, vitamin A and phytochemicals become concentrated, according to Golden Harvest Organics.
Once your tomatoes are dried, you throw them in salads, on pizzas, in pasta—or store them. Dried tomatoes will keep in plastic bag or airtight glass jar for about a year. Pack tightly (squeezing out excess air if using a bag), and store in a dark place, at room temperature. You can store them dry or in a little olive oil.
I wanted to make something simple with the dried tomatoes, so their flavor could really pop, so I added them to a simple orzo, chopped fresh basil and olive oil mix.
Oven-Dried Tomatoes With Orzo & Basil
ripe tomatoes (any size/variety, the fresher and more flavorful the better)
1 1/2 cups orzo
1 tablespoon brown sugar
fresh basil, about 1/4 cup chopped
pepper (and additional herbs for tomatoes if desired)
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Slice tomatoes, and spread on aluminum foil or parchment-covered baking sheet. Placing them skin-side up will allow some of the moisture to drip out, which helps them dry faster. Sprinkle tomatoes lightly with brown sugar, pepper and any herbs you want to use (I just used a little oregano). Put tomatoes in oven to bake—which could take anywhere between 1.5- and 6 hours, I’m told. I cooked mine for about 2 hours. How long you cook them is, in part, a matter of preference, but as a guide, edges of tomatoes should be shriveled and juices stopped running.
For orzo, bring 4 cups water to a boil, then add 1 1/2 cups orzo. Cover halfway and let cook for 7-10 minutes, until pasta is tender. Drain.
Add olive oil and chopped basil to orzo, and stir. Top with copious dried tomatoes.