With fall approaching peak splendor and the final bunches of herbs being picked, I find myself reflecting on the my little backyard garden. I am always happy for our successes but the failures nag at me. Sometimes overshadowing the good and causing me to rethink just about every move I made. And of course there’s the cursed weather. Too much rain, not enough rain, too hot, too cool a spring. WHY CAN’T IT EVER BE PERFECT!
Last year I was lamenting our dismal crop of tomatoes (see Spice Rubbed Chicken with Fresh Tomato, Olive & Basil Salad made with tomatoes not from my garden). This year? COMPLETELY different story. The tomato gods cooperated and the produced a bumper crop!
An interesting variety too, although I can’t remember the specific name but for about a 4-week period, the plants produced a near record amount of sweet, little Roma-shaped fruits that ended up in salads and salsas. In hopes of preserving these little gems beyond harvest time, we turned to our old, trusty Ronco Food Dehydrator and got busy.
Oil packed tomatoes have countless uses but our favorite way to enjoy them is very simply with linguine, garlic and a little parsley. It’s a dish we used to cook frequently back in our downtown-Chicago-condo-no kids days. Although back then we used store bought brand oil packed dried tomatoes. And hey, nothing wrong with that! Just be sure you select a top notch brand (our favorite after much trial and error, is still California Sun-Dry Brand).
I still recommend trying your hand at drying tomatoes at home. You will be amazed how easy it is and how even with off-season grocery store tomatoes, you can achieve fresh, intense flavor. Having a dehydrator is handy, but your oven and a baking sheet work just as well. Instructions for drying your own tomatoes at home come after the recipe.
Other than canning sauce this is the next best way (in my opinion) to preserve the summer tomato bounty. It was a good harvest indeed.
- 12 ounces dried linguine pasta
- 1 jar (about 8 oz.) oil-packed sun dried tomatoes
- 3 large cloves of garlic, very thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or basil
- Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
Drain tomatoes and reserve oil. Place about 2 TBS of the reserved oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add sliced garlic and saute just until fragrant, under 1 minute (do not let the garlic brown). Add reserved tomatoes and turn heat to low. Stir to combine then turn off heat and cover pan.
In the meantime, cook linguine according to package directions until al dente. Drain pasta but do not rinse. Add pasta and parsley to the pan with the tomatoes and the garlic, stirring to combine. Add additional reserved oil if desired, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Serves 2 as a meatless entree, or 4 as a side dish
~How to Make Dried Tomatoes at Home~
- About 6 cups fresh cherry tomatoes
- Italian seasoning blend, about 1 TBS
- Kosher salt
- Extra Virgin olive oil
- Sprigs of fresh basil or thyme
Prepare the tomatoes by cutting each in half, trimming out the core in the middle. Using a paring knife, carefully scrape seeds from each tomato. Sprinkle each tomato half with some of the herb mixture and a pinch of salt.
Arrange tomatoes cut side up onto drying trays. Dry for about 4-5 hours, then turn halves over and press flat with our finger or a spoon and return to drying. Check occasionally, rotating racks and removing tomatoes that are finished. Finished tomatoes should be dried, but still pliable and chewy.
Preheat oven to 170°. Arrange tomato halves, cut side up on a rack set inside a sheet pan). Bake for about 10 hours, checking every couple of hours or so and flipping over if necessary. Depending size of tomatoes, they may take longer to dry. Just make sure they are shriveled but still chewy.
Place dried tomatoes in a glass jar. Add in a few sprigs of basil or thyme, then pour in olive oil to cover. Cover jar and store in refrigerator if not using within 24 hours.