A fresh tomato is juicy and succulent, full of fresh taste and good flavor – and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But a lot of our favorite methods of preparing tomatoes seek to concentrate and intensify that flavor, turning a regular tomato into something deeper and richer. The sun-dried tomatoes you can find in the store are an example of this, but for the most part they are inferior products, chewy and sour without much character at all. With just a little investment in time, however, you can make your own dried tomatoes in the oven at home, turning even the most timid of tomatoes into something fundamentally different and definitely delicious.
To make our oven-dried tomatoes, cut each tomato in half vertically (through the stem). Place the tomato halves seed side up on a baking sheet and sprinkle them lightly with kosher salt or coarse sea salt. Drizzle the tomato halves with olive oil and place into a 200 degree oven for at least twelve hours. The great thing about drying these yourself is that you have the ability to judge how soft you want your resulting tomatoes to be – we ran our most recent batch for right at twelve hours, and the results were still moist enough to blend together with a bit of olive oil (see right) for a thick, rich sauce perfect for dipping bread or for use as a base for a sauce. Leaving them in longer will result in tomatoes that are more the consistency of the sun-dried tomatoes you find at the store, but the flavor is superior in every way. These things will last for a week or two in the fridge – and virtually forever in the freezer. One of our favorite uses for them is to make the puree seen above, spread it on toast, top with cheese and broil just until the cheese gets browned – it’s one of the richest versions of bruschetta you’ll ever taste. Enjoy!