Monthly Archives: September 2012

Sun (oven) Dried Tomatoes

Every year, starting around the last week of August, we are awash in tomatoes.  Beefsteaks, Romas, cherry tomatoes, you name it.  We plant a little bit of everything.  And for at least a month I eat a tomato at every meal.  I make salsa.  I make soup.  I make spaghetti sauce.  I make my mom take some.  (She says our garden tomatoes are the best she’s ever had, by the way.)  I’m constantly looking for new recipes in which to use my bags and bags of tomatoes.

And before you ask – no, I don’t can.  Why?  Because at the moment I don’t have the time to add one more thing to my plate, nor the money to buy all the stuff to start up.  Next year.  Every year I say next year.  I’m also a little more than a little worried that I’ll do it wrong and accidentally poison my whole family…

So until I get over my fear, and find some time and some money, this is what I do to make sure my tomatoes don’t rot in my kitchen.

When you make sun dried tomatoes yourself they turn out sooooo much better than the ones you buy at the store.  I make mine “dry” now (like the ones in the bags, not the ones in the jars packed in oil).  You can do them drizzled with oil and stored in a jar in your fridge but they spoil faster that way.

I’m gonna preempt this next part by saying this is the kind of endeavor you want to take on over the weekend.  At least your first time through.  The time element is quite variable depending on the size of your tomatoes and your oven itself.

Take your clean tomatoes and remove any remaining stems.  I tried to group them by size but it’s not even slightly necessary that you do that.  Cut them in half lengthwise, season them with salt (and pepper if you like a little bite), and place on a cookie sheet cut side up in a 200 degree oven.

Leave them in there until they are dried but not hard – like a raisin – chewy, with just a little plumpness left in them.  Most of these ones were done when I took this shot.  Some were not.  I know this because I picked them up individually to test them.  This is one of those things that you really have to go by feel.  When you can pick them up and the bottoms are firm (not squooshy, not hard) they are ready to come out.  Don’t worry – the temperature is so low you’ve got some wiggle room on the time.

The time varies greatly depending on the size of your tomatoes and on your particular oven.   I think mine runs a little cool because it always takes my oven longer than I think it’s supposed to.  If you have full size Romas, like the size you might pick up in the grocery store, you probably want to put these in before you go to bed.  I’ve read this takes about five hours but my smallest ones probably took eight.  The bigger ones took more like 14 hours.  At least for your first time…check them every hour or so starting around five hours to be safe.   (Like I said – weekend project.)

And here they are all done!  Try not to eat them all at once.  I actually ate two right off this plate after taking this picture.  The flavor of sun dried tomatoes is so very different from a fresh tomato.  So much more concentrated.  Sweeter.  Almost candy-like.  You have to try them to understand.

Once your tomatoes are cool, simply put them in a ziplock bag and toss them in your cupboard.   You can use them wherever sun dried tomatoes are called for in recipes.  Use them in pesto.  Chop them up and mix them into mayo for a gourmet spread.  Put them out alongside some olives, some bocconcini, some prosciutto and you have a first class antipasto.  Add them to pasta sauce, serve them with eggs, in sandwiches, there are a million uses.  They make adorable crostini (recipe teaser!)  And you know I adore them on my Balsamic Steak Gorgonzola Pizza.

Give it a try, I promise, they’re amazing.
Enjoy!

Sun (oven) Dried Tomatoes

Roma tomatoes

Kosher Salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Clean and stem tomatoes.  Cut tomatoes in half and season with salt.

Put tomatoes cut-side up on a cookie sheet and dry in the oven until dried chewy like raisins, several hours at least.  Test for doneness by pinching between your fingers.  The bottoms should be supple but firm – not squooshy and not hard as a rock.

Allow to cool completely before sealing in ziplock bags.  Store like you would any other dried fruit in your cupboard.

Makes as many as you want.

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Refried Black Beans

I’ve been making these a lot lately.  They are super quick and easy and go well with pretty much any southwestern or Mexican food you may be having.  I made them this morning, as I have most weekends this summer, to go in breakfast burritos.   Quick, easy, cheap, versatile, AND healthy?  Yes, please.

Here’s everything you need:  1 can of black beans, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 Tbsp fresh chopped oregano, and 2 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro.  This oregano is from my herb garden.  I don’t have  Mexican oregano, and I’m honestly not even sure what the difference is, but if you have some and you want to try it please do so!

And let me know how it’s different 🙂

Start by heating your olive oil in a small pot over medium heat.  Add the garlic, cumin, cayenne, and chopped oregano and toast for a minute to bring out their flavors.

Add the entire can of black beans (liquid and all), and bring up to a simmer.

Using the back of a spoon, mash about half the beans.

Let it simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated away and your beans are the consistency you like.  Here mine are almost done.  I don’t know about you but I don’t like mine bone dry so keep a watch on them.  It only takes a few minutes.

Top with some fresh cilantro and serve!  You can, of course, chop up your cilantro before sprinkling it on (I usually do but leaving the leaves whole makes for a prettier presentation, I think)  We do these in breakfast burritos, as I said, but I also put them out on “make your own taco” night.  I also love them alongside my southwestern pulled pork (recipe coming soon!).

This recipe is very versatile and gladly accepts any number of alterations.  As it happened, I had a couple hot cherry peppers from the garden just begging to be included so I chopped up half of this guy right here and added it in with the spices.  You could add some chopped onion or red bell pepper in the beginning before the garlic, you could vary the spices, you could top it with some crumbled queso fresco or sour cream at the end – whatever!  Cooking’s great like that, you can always mix it up and make it yours.

Enjoy!

Refried Black Beans

1 (14oz) can black beans

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano

2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions:

Heat oil in small pot over medium heat.  Add garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper, and oregano and toast for one minute.

Add in entire can of beans, including liquid.  Bring up to a simmer.

While simmering, mash about half the beans.  Stir occasionally until most of the liquid has evaporated away and beans look “refried”.

Top with fresh cilantro.

Serves 4.

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Crispy Fried Shallots

If you’re gluten free, or cook for anyone who is, you’re going to love this.

If you’re a foodie, you’re going to love this.

If you’re a huge fan of French’s French Fried Onions and can’t imagine why anyone would want to do any unnecessary work when they could just open up a can of those – you might not be interested in this at all.

I came across this technique a couple years ago when I was making Green Bean Casserole for Thanksgiving.  One of the essential ingredients, the french fried onions, are full of gluten.  (As is cream of mushroom soup.  Thanksgiving is a marathon of prep for us, isn’t it?  Anyway.)  For a couple years I had substituted (gasp) Funyuns for the crunchy onion topping we know so well.  They’re GF.  Who knew?  And for the record, if you can get past the horror of seeing Funyuns on your Thanksgiving table, they’re not actually that bad of a substitute.

But after a couple years of Funyun Thanksgivings I saw someone on TV, I can’t even remember who, making their Green Bean Casserole with crispy fried shallots on top.  Plain onions with no coating can be fried and end up crispy?  I was intrigued so I tried it.

Never going back.  They’re seriously easy to make and are so impressive on top of a wide variety of foods.  I prepare them almost every time I make mashed potatoes.  So good, so easy, so impressive.  What’s not to love?

Here’s what you do.  Slice up your shallots as thinly as you can.  I probably have five shallots here.  Shallots are the little pinkish-brown ones.  They’re exceptionally sweet as onions go.  Our grocery store stocks them next to the garlic.

Next, heat a couple inches of oil until very hot.  You can reuse oil, did you know that?  Just strain it and put it in tupperware in the fridge.  That way you don’t have to feel like you’re wasting oil every time you need to deep fry something.  The oil will get darker with each use so when it gets too dark just toss it.

I didn’t use a thermometer this time but if you are, we’re  working in the 350-375 range.  Add your shallots, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.  (This ^ is me not following my own advice.)  Toss the onions around every once in a while just to make sure they’re not sticking together.

You want to cook them until they are golden brown.  The onions are not going to be stiff and crispy when you pull them out of the oil.  That happens when you lay them on a paper towel lined plate to drain.

I use a strainer to pull them out quickly.  These are just a shade darker than I prefer but still absolutely wonderful.  At this point you can salt them or season them as you like – you don’t want to salt them beforehand, it’s not good for the oil.  I have no idea why, but that’s what I was taught when I worked at Burger King a million years ago.

These would be a delightful topping on any casserole, piled high on a burger, scattered atop mashed potatoes or meatloaf.  They would add a great salty crunch to a salad and would make a beautiful garnish on any number of soups.  Fried shallots have so many uses and it only takes a couple minutes to make them.  So please do.  Your foodie/gluten free/fried-food-loving friends will thank you for it.

Enjoy!

Crispy Fried Shallots

shallots, as many as you want to do, sliced as evenly and thinly as you can (mine were probably 3mm thick)

enough oil to cover your pan 2 inches deep ( you can use less than that, maybe an inch deep, but it’s harder to control the temperature of your oil the less you use)

Instructions:

Heat oil until very hot (350-375 degrees) and add in sliced shallots (add in batches if doing more than 4 or 5 so as not to crowd the pan.  The oil should sizzle frantically when you put them in.  Stir the pan occasionally to make sure the shallots are not sticking together.

Fry until golden brown (I have never timed this – I’ve always gone by the color – it takes a few minutes).  Using a small strainer, remove them to a paper towel lined plate.  The shallots will still be wiggly when you remove them from the oil, they will crisp up as they drain.

These are best used right away.  Refrigerating fried foods always makes them lose their crispness.

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