Golden orbs of sublime flavor these Sungolds. We love August and September when their vines are loaded and tomato grazing is prime. I return to the house after such a foray – me and my tomatoes alone at last – with my culinary soul satisfied and hands tinged with tomatoes’ invisible aura, the pigment that, when you wash your hands, colors the water with its golden green tint. Busted!
I know. This PNW summer’s a little lame in the tomato department, but hang in there, they’re coming. I have many on the vine, some actually ripening. And there’s always Billy’s reliable eastern Washington crop at weekend Farmer’s Markets.
Dried and zip locked into the freezer for another season, preserved Sungolds, or any cherry or pear tomato, are pure glory mid-winter. Not literally sun dried. Who does that? The Greeks and Italians in their Mediterranean climate? We use our own taciturn, but efficient dryer and rehydrate later with olive oil, garlic and salt. Scrumptious. At least as good as straight off the vine mid-summer. I know that’s saying a lot and it might actually be true. Guests come for dinner mid-winter and dig into these like there’s no tomorrow and, truthfully, at that point summer does seem impossible.
Drying Cherry Tomatoes
Directions: I use a dryer, nothing fancy at all. Cut each Sungold or cherry tomato in half and place cut-side up on racks. Depending on the dryer, it can take from 12 – 18 hours to get them right. Careful not to dry them too long or they become crisp and difficult to chew. (In which case you can always use them in soup or rehydrate in boiling water for 30 seconds and then drain.) We try to remove tomatoes from the dryer when they’re just leathery and still pliable, which means checking them from time to time after the first few hours.
Store in zip lock bags in any amount you like and freeze – 1/2 cup portions work well.
Some time, in say November, open a bag, put them in a bowl and cover with olive oil. Add a smashed clove of garlic, a pinch of salt, maybe dried oregano. Let it sit for a few and then . . . a couple of tomatoes and plenty of olive oil on a piece of crusty bread or crostini . . . gild the lily with a dab of goat cheese, with roasted garlic, hummus . . . what would happen if you put the dried tomatoes, garlic and olive oil into a blender with some balsamic and made dried sungold tomato salad dressing? Good or gawdy? I’m going to go with sounds good.
Don’t have a dryer? Oven-dried, though I’ve never done it, is supposedly easy. Same deal, cut them up, lay cherry tomatoes out in one layer with Silpat (a silicone mat) or parchment underneath. Turn oven on as low as it will go, 150º – 200º. Ten or twelve hours later tomatoes should be about right. Keep an eye on them and when they’re leathery, not juicy, but still pliable they’re done.