Easy Ways to Use Preserved Dried Tomatoes
This is not the first year that I’ve dried vegetables to preserve them, but I certainly did more of it this year than any previous year. There are many benefits to dehydrating vegetables for preserving, and once you’re hooked you’ll wonder why you never did more of it before (I know I certainly do!).
One of the reasons that people don’t do more dehydrating is a very simple one—we don’t know what to do with those vegetables once we’ve got them dried. It’s a question that I see and am asked quite often. And so, along with learning more about the actual drying process, I’m always looking for ways to use dried produce. After all, if we don’t use it, then what’s the point?
Using Dried and Dehydrated Tomatoes
It’s a lot to take on how to use all types of dried vegetables in one article. It makes more sense to break it down into individual vegetables (and fruits, too). Actually—and you’ve probably heard this before—tomatoes, the subject for today, are fruit. But we know we really all consider them vegetables.
Tomato, tomaaato, fruit or veggie—what can you do with dried tomatoes?
You might not think so, but dried tomatoes are one of the easiest dried vegetables (fruit) to use. Dehydrated tomatoes reconstitute easily, which is key in maximizing their use. The easier it is to bring your dried produce “back to life,” the easier you’ll find it is for you to use them. It also helps that you don’t actually need to reconstitute tomatoes in order to use them (but just in case, there are instructions for that below).
That said, here are some of my favorite ways to use dried, dehydrated, and sun-dried tomatoes. Regardless of what method you used to dehydrate them, these uses will work for all properly preserved dry tomatoes:
“Sun-dried” Tomatoes in Oil. Very simply, use whole slices or break up into any size pieces (I find about ¼ to ½ inch something easy to chew after-the-fact). Place the tomatoes in a jar and then cover with olive oil. Add any herbs or spices you like. I love adding fresh or dried garlic cloves and some salt. I’ll frequently add in pepper (white or red pepper flakes are delicious) and basil.
This oil should be refrigerated for safety’s sake, which may cause the oil to coagulate, but if you leave the jar out at room temperature for a while before serving, or warm it a little, it will come right back to its fluid state. Prepare this oil several hours to days before you want to use it to get the best flavor infusion and some softening of the dried tomatoes (in this constitution they do not get as soft as cooked tomatoes so expect them to be a little crisp and chewy).
From here, there are many ways that you can use this infused oil, and/or the tomatoes. You may strain the tomatoes and vegetables from the oil or keep them in suspension, or you can remove just the tomatoes and use them. Some favorite ways to use the oil and/or the tomatoes are: as a dipping oil, salad dressing, on pizza, in stir-fries, as a marinade or tossed into pan-fried, sautéed, or roasted chops and meats.
This oil makes an excellent alternative to full-on pasta sauces—light, delicious, not overpowering, easy on the stomach, still with good tomato flavor…almost like a fast and easy sun-dried tomato pesto. It is an especially good pairing for veal and chicken but will do well with a number of meats, and of course with other vegetables!
Rehydrated for sauce. Tomatoes rehydrate very easily (see below), so rehydrating them and then pureeing or using for any sauce recipe is simple. Rehydrate, puree, season, simmer. Simple!
Dried tomato powder. Place dried tomatoes in a blender or food processor and process until pulverized into a powder. You can make the powder ahead to have on hand for everyday cooking.
Tomato powder works well as a thickener similar to tomato paste, as a seasoning for soups, stews, or roasted meats and vegetables, added to beef bone broth (really helps mellow the beef bones!), or added to vegetable juices.
In any soup, stew, or chili. Tomatoes rehydrate so easily that you don’t even need to rehydrate them before using them in these dishes. Just throw them in in a measure close to what the rehydrated to fresh equivalent would be (see below).
Rehydrated for salsa or Pico de Gallo. Rehydrate as per below, and use in place of fresh tomatoes in your favorite salsa recipe.In rice dishes. Easy. Add dried tomatoes in when boiling the rice, using a little extra water.
In omelets, casseroles, and other dishes. For these recipes, you can choose the form you think will work best—as a sun-dried type, in oil, rehydrated, or allowed to rehydrate in the cooking. Tomato is a great flavor for many of these types of dishes, and dried or dried and rehydrated tomatoes work excellently as well!
How to Rehydrate Dried Tomatoes for “Fresh” Tomato Recipes
To rehydrate dried tomatoes, place tomatoes in a bowl and add enough warm water to cover the dried tomatoes. Cover and let sit for one hour (or overnight in a refrigerator), and then use in cooking just as you would use canned or sliced/chopped tomatoes. If preferred, drain off excess water (though it can make a nice flavoring in soups and rice dishes, and if making sauce a little liquid to puree is not unwelcome).
The only real question left, then, is how do you know how much or how many dried tomatoes to use for the “fresh” yield you need? Here are some yields and equivalents to go by:
• 1 pound of fresh tomatoes will yield about 1 cup of dried tomatoes
• Use 1 cup dried tomatoes for every pound of fresh tomatoes a recipe calls for—rehydrate according to use
• 1 cup of rehydrated tomatoes equals 1 ½ cups
Recommended Reading for Drying Tomatoes, Using Dried Tomatoes, and Preserving Other Dried Foods
I strongly recommend this book for either drying fruits and vegetables or for resources and ways to use them after the fact. It is a very comprehensive guide, a “Bible” of sorts for preserving foods. It takes you all the way through from preserving to use, including a number of good recipes. Published by the reputable, reliable Storey Publishing house:
The Beginner’s Guide to Making and Using Dried Foods: Preserve Fresh Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs, and Meat with a Dehydrator, a Kitchen Oven, or the Sun — by Teresa Marrone
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