Monday, September 13, 2010

I Don't Hate the Sun, I Just Hate What it Does to Drying Tomatoes!

The list of things I don't enjoy eating is a very short one, and near the top of that list is sun-dried tomatoes. I love the concept – sweet, vine-ripened plum tomatoes, slowly drying in the hot Italian sun – while we're waiting, we play bocce ball, drink jug wine, and eat lardo. What a scene.

Too bad I hate the taste. To me, and I've had dozens of varieties, sun-dried tomatoes have a really strong, bitter, almost medicine-y flavor that I just can't handle.

When I first started my culinary career in San Francisco, in the early eighties, sun-dried tomatoes were all the rage, and more than once I had to choke them down, smiling, as not to seem unfashionable.

While they look similar, the oven-dried San Marzano tomatoes in this video recipe were truly delicious, and nothing like the ones that have disgusted me for decades. The flavor is much milder, the texture much softer, and you can't ask for an easier technique.

I was going to list everything these would be good on, with, and in, but I think it will be much faster to just list what they would not be great with. That includes chocolate butterscotch pudding and Tofurky (although in fairness, nothing is good with Tofurky). That's it! They are awesome with everything else. Enjoy!




Ingredients:
San Marzano tomatoes, or other plum-style tomato variety
olive oil
sea salt
fresh thyme

41 comments:

Roz said...

I've never liked sun dried tomatoes either. It's comforting to know I'm not the only one. You've never steered me wrong, I need to give these a try.

Anonymous said...

Remember the Amazin' Tomazins.

Chef John said...

lol, yes, Amazin' Tomazins! you've been watching for a while!

Anonymous said...

how come they only keep for a week in olive oil Chef

Chef John said...

not sure, I just guessed a week.

Chase Saunders said...

Haha I will eat almost everything but sun-dried tomatoes are nasty. If indeed these aren't, I wonder what would explain it?

Chef John said...

sun-dried tomatoes are completely dried first. these are not.

The House of Madness said...

How do I make a food wish? Where do I post it?

Chef John said...

You can leave a comment, or the "Make a Food Wish" link in the sidebar main menu works too. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Looks wonderful and I can't wait to try this one because I have everything needed already here!

What do you think about adding a couple of fresh basil leaves to the dried tomatoes and oil jar, instead of another spring of fresh thyme?

Chef John said...

Sure, basil would be great

Anonymous said...

These oven-dried tomatoes really look fantastic! I’ve once tried similar ones and there’s truly nothing reaching up to that. However, for those of you who don’t have an oven (like sad me) there is yet another method to achieve a really nice result: Most sun dried tomatoes are taken as are (super-hard and extremely crumbly) and simply mixed with olive oil and herbs. Why the hell do people think this works? During the drying process they have been loosing water, not oil! So to achieve a surprisingly better result, my Mom usually adds an extra step and pours boiling water over the dried tomatoes (the dry unseasoned ones you can buy in boxes, not the oily stuff in yars) and just lets them sit until they soften (depends on the size and brand, you’ll figure it out). For some reason, this also seems to remove most of the bitterness. When you’ve reached the desired consistency you remove the tomatoes from the water. Make sure they are really dry and then just mix them with sea salt, a pinch of sugar or some honey and crushed herbs and spices (rosemary, thyme, garlic, black pepper, …) which you have slightly (!!!) warmed up in lots of olive oil while the tomatoes were soaking in the water.

WoundedEgo said...

Eating sun dried tomatoes is like eating someone's ear.

Anonymous said...

I have always steered away from sun dried tomatoes. Hated the taste and couldn't see what everyone was raving about. Glad you admitted you are also not liking them. Feel more normal now. Just to mention I also don't see what all the fuss is about goat cheese. Everyone is crazy about it. And I am a cheese lover.
I will try the tomatoes your way, have you ever tried smoked tomatoes?
Bought a stove top smoker that I can use on my outdoor grill burner.

Chef John said...

LOVE goat cheese. My fav! Never smoked tomatoes...is that legal? ;-)

Chef John said...

I'll take your word for it!!

Anonymous said...

Bravo Chef John! But you dog... :-)... you found San Marzanos??? Aren't you the lucky thing!!! I make something similar with tomatoes from my garden...I cut them as you do but then season them with sea salt,freshly ground pepper, a good imported olive oil and shaved garlic. I put mine in a 225-250 degree oven for about 4-5 hours (depends on the size of the tomatoes) and then once cooled after being taken out of the oven, I layer them with thyme, basil, parsley, a bit more garlic and then cover all with more olive oil. They do great in the freezer to make an appearance on a horrible winter day...that is as you said, if you have the great strength of character to put them out of reach. They are like eating candy, but better!!!! They are super on crostini, in salads, on pizzas or eaten by the spoon right from the container...but then let's not talk about the uses of the leftover oil once the tomatoes are gone!!!

Ed Charbeneau said...

I don't know where you guys have been getting your sun dried tomatoes, but I like them. I eat them straight out of the jar.

Great recipe though, tomatoes have been quite plentiful this year. I'll take them any way I can get them.

WoundedEgo said...

Anonymous mentioned "a good imported olive oil"... I read recently that they're going to certify olive oil imports (and domestics) in the future because it turns out that, as I long suspected, even Extra Virgin is seriously diluted with cheap-o vegetable oils.

Does anybody have a brand that they swear by?

Anonymous said...

Hi Chef John,
I’m trying this recipe as I write this note. Is there a difference with using Fleur de Sel, sea salt and Kosher salt? Which might be the preferred? Just wondering.
Martin

Chef John said...

no difference really. kosher may be a little finer, so you would need a little less.

WoundedEgo said...

Kosher salt consists of table salt cut with magnesium something or other. It is therefore less salty, at 3 times the price. I just use table salt, judiciously, and no one has complained.

Chef John said...

not sure what your source is for the kosher salt info, but Ive never heard that or found it any less or more salty. It's less salty by volume because the crystal are large, but that's the only real difference. Equal weights dissolved in water would taste the same. Chefs like it because it's easy to use and handle. (fine salt sticks and cakes on to damp fingers of line cooks)

❦ me said...

This has nothing whatsoever to do with this post but I just wanted to let you know that I made the Chicken Marsala recipe tonight and .... mwah! Thank you for your wonderful instructional video and the great recipe.
It is beyond delicious.
I'll be making it again soon for my Mom and my friends. They already love me but this should seal the deal for the afterlife too. :D

Thanks, Chef John. ♡

sequimteeth said...

Wonder if cherry tomatoes would work also...will try that too. The idea of "sun" dried tomatoes "fresh" sounds great. I wonder how long some of the ones you can buy have been in the bottle.

It still amazes me how you can film, stir or plate, and play the piano too.....

Anonymous said...

that looks so great.
i'll do it on this weekend.

WoundedEgo said...

Well, apparently my Kosher (Manishevitz?) salt has the anti-clumping compound mentioned here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kosher_salt

Chef John said...

Not sure about that brand, I just didn't want people to think there was a taste difference. This has been tested extensively, including by my hero Alton Brown.

KrisD said...

I have Diamond Brand Kosher Crystal Salt--the only ingredient is Salt. My 3 lb box of salt cost $1.99 (Boston area prices).

Love it. I haven't had table salt in the house in over a decade.

I think that different brands vary, but there is no rule that states kosher salt must contain anything other than good ol' NaCl.

WoundedEgo said...

If you have time to kill, here's more than you need to know about salt:

http://salt101.com

Justin said...

Nice Fleur de Sel... I've got it too. It's kind of pink-ish, which means it's been dried up with some plankton. It's just a great finishing salt. I use it on your butternut squash ravioli.

And what do I do about sharing a recipe here, I think I've got one that you'd like as well. Maybe you can try it, do your rendition and post it? I'd like to see if you'd change it, probably just add cayenne. :)

Chef John said...

just click the make a food wish link and send an email, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Chef John,
This year I have lots of San Marzano tomatoes in my garden that will most likely not ripen. Do you have a recipe for these? Other than the fried green tomatoes? Maybe a salsa or something similar that could be frozen and used later in Winter.

Thanks,
Matt

Chef John said...

i don't, maybe look for a pickle recipe?

Anonymous said...

They were fantastic. I had some friends over, and they loved it. My wife wants me to make them again immediately, as they finished so quickly. Thanks.

Artsygal said...

Oh now this looks good! I'm one of those who loves sundried tomatoes, but because of the absurd price on them rarely buys them. I'm coming to the last few pieces in my current jar, so I'll have to try your recipe to refill the jar. Do you have any thoughts on cutting the tomatoes into thinner pieces (like pictured on your bread and cheese image?) before roasting? I like them best in sandwiches but hate the task of trying to chop them into little pieces when making sandwiches, since that makes a bit of a mess, and generally if I'm making a sandwich for a meal it's because I don't feel like dirtying anything beyond a plate and a knife.

WoundedEgo said...

Well, for those who love sun dried tomatoes, you might like this idea...

I bake lots of no-knead bread. I eat a lot if it as pizza... I sprinkle a slice with garlic powder, then cover that with tomatoes and jalopena from Walmart (in a can) and sprinkle some Parmesean, and some Oregano... easy peasy, and delicious.

I did this so often that I decided to make the bread with the ingredients already included. So I mixed in the garlic powder and a can of the tomatoes and chilis instead of water. It came out yummy, but the kicker was that the tomatoes developed the dried tomato taste (and the peppers kind of had that smoked taste like Chipotles seem to have.

Me.Eat.Food said...

I was walking through my local farmers market yesterday and stumbled upon San Marzano tomatoes for the first time. I remembered seeing this recipe on your blog before so I bought a some and tried this recipe.

YUM! These are heavenly to eat and I look forward to serving them in different ways...perhaps served with the pesto I made with the fresh basil I bought too.

Mine didn't totally "dry." Still quite juicy and moist and very tender after refrigerating overnight. There weren't a lot of seeds in my tomatoes. Do I need to scoop out that liquidy membrane that the seeds float in? I had some of that in there, but not many seeds. How can I tell when it's dry enough to turn off the oven? I left them in for 20 mins at 450, but they weren't as dry as I expected.

JC said...

Just a heads up - if you keep drying these a little further so they're a little bit leathery but still quite pliable, they keep beautifully in the freezer in zip lock baggies (without the oil). I put up about 15 lbs of tomatoes this past summer using your method and they've been gracing many of my meals ever since. I'm down to my last few and quite sad about it.

GG said...

Just wanted to share this combination. So I made these with grape tomatoes (that's all I had in the fridge). Also over this past weekend I made the roasted garlic/confit from the Father's Day Garlic Steak recipe. Combined garlic & tomatoes with unsalted butter and generously spread the mix over the no-knead beer bread (recipe on blog). I am eating it right now for lunch with the red clam sauce spaghetti. Yeah, I bit my lip. It is delicious. Also add avocado pieces on top of buttered bread for a great snack. Lunch "a la Chef John" today!!

Thanks so much Chef John. I am becoming quite the cook since I discovered your Thanksgiving Turkey recipe for "newbies".

Gaelle

21401 said...

Chef John,

I am wondering if there's specific reasons that you put the thyme at the bottom instead of on top of tomatoes? I only have dried thyme and I followed your directions to leave them at the bottom. But I keep wondering if I should sprinkle the dried thyme on top of tomatoes. The tomatoes are in the oven now so I can't tell you how they turn out just yet. Thanks.