This is one of my absolute favorite ways to preserve tomatoes—great for the bounty of tomato season, or even if you’re just craving good tomato flavor in the off season, which I often do. They’re made to mimic the oil-cured, semi-dried Italian tomatoes that restaurants often purchase from wholesale purveyors. If I say so myself, too, they’re even better than the ones in the jar, since doing them at home means you have more control over the drying process, and, if you’re like me, you may like them dried a bit longer which concentrates their flavor and makes for a dense, meaty texture.
Essentially they’re tomatoes seasoned with wild herbs and dried slowly in an oven for a few hours.
Here I use one of my favorite combinations of wild herbs: bee balm and dried ramp leaves. I use them because they work well together, and they’re both wild herbs I forage, but you could use all kinds of different herbs to flavor your tomatoes. Here’s a few ideas.
- Summer savory
- Fresh thyme
- Marjoram or oregano
- Add a pinch of ground coriander seed
- Add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes or a couple dashes of your favorite hot sauce
Ideas for using
- The finished, dried tomatoes are fantastic anywhere you like, but they really shine added to salads, especially heavy, vegetable-based warm salads of white beans, artichokes, greens, and mushrooms—just think antipasti.
- Their concentrated, aromatic flavor also makes a good addition to stuffings, especially with meat, like stuffing inside of a chicken breast with a slice of fontina cheese.
- Add them to homemade pizzas and flatbreads instead of fresh tomatoes, since they’re dried, they won’t give off water that can make things soggy.
- Just like regular tomatoes, they’re great with cheese. Think of things along the lines of winter caprese salad, with slices or chunks of fresh mozzarella, and a dollop of pesto.
Oven Dried Tomatoes with Bee Balm and Ramp Leaves
- 4 lbs tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 T olive oil
- Generous pinch bergamot
- Generous pinch dried ramps
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 large clove garlic grated
- Pinch of chili such as red pepper flakes or Aleppo chili
- Shave off a thin slice where the tomato came off of the vine. Cut the tomatoes in half the long way, then squeeze the seeds out into a bowl as best you can.
- Put the sliced, squeezed tomatoes in a large bowl, toss with the remaining ingredients and allow to sit on the counter for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour or two while you do something else.
- Preheat the oven to 200F, lay the tomatoes out cut-side up on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat, then cook for 5 hours, turning the heat off and leaving them in the oven overnight to dry with the residual heat.
- The next day, remove the tomatoes, slip off their skins, cut into 1/4s, put in a jar, cover them in olive oil and refrigerate until needed. They’ll last a couple weeks.
- Smoking the tomatoes on low heat 180F, etc, and or tossing them with vinegar before packing in the jar are both excellent variations.