Overwhelmed by the big bags of farm fresh tomatoes on my counter top, I tried to think of great ways to preserve them for future use. One can only make so much fresh salsa and tomato sauce, so I thought that these oven dried tomatoes would make a fabulous treat over the next several weeks.
I start by lining several baking sheets with silpats (though parchment paper would work equally well if you don’t have a silpat laying around). I then sliced my tomatoes as thinly as I possibly could with a sharp serrated knife, and lined them up tightly on the baking sheets. I then popped them into my oven, set to its lowest setting (mine goes down to 170º though yours may go down even further). I bake them for approximately five to six hours at this low temperature, or until they are completely dry, and practically paper thin.
Meanwhile, in a skillet I combine two cups of extra virgin olive oil, five or six stems of fresh thyme, two large stems of fresh rosemary, about twenty garlic cloves, and a pinch of dried red pepper flakes. I turn the flame onto its lowest setting, and allow the flavors to infuse the oil, and the garlic to caramelize (which takes approximately 45 minutes).
Once the tomatoes are thoroughly dried, I remove them from the oven and allow them to cool on the sheet pans. I then carefully peel each of them off of the silpat (or parchment) and stack them up in glass jars, layering them with the roasted garlic cloves, and a few fresh stems of thyme and rosemary, a sprinkling of sea salt, and a healthy amount of freshly ground black pepper. Once the jars are filled, I cover the tomatoes with the cooled, herb infused olive oil. The filled jars can be stored in your refrigerator for up to a month.
The tomatoes are candy sweet and plump up a little in the oil. They make a great addition to pasta sauces or pesto, or on their own make a great topping for toasted bread, spread with fresh goat cheese. The oil is perfect spooned over grilled fish, and is delicious made into salad dressings. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be thrilled to receive a gift of one of these beautifully layered jars of ruby red tomatoes. Though with the time and effort it takes, letting go of the jars is a difficult task. I have to like someone A LOT to give these away. But realistically, while it is a time consuming process, each of the steps is easy, and once they are in the oven they essentially take care of themselves. It’s just one more great way to preserve the last of those fresh summer flavors. Enjoy!