Dining In

Dried Tomatoes Are Drenched With Flavor

By Nancy Finch, Food Columnist   

What a difference 20 years makes! Twenty years ago, the first commercially dried tomatoes in the U.S. came about in Healdsburg, California.

Today the dried-tomato business is a million-dollar success story. Why the craze? Well, sun-dried tomatoes offer new and unusual treatments with an intense tomato flavor, not to be found in other tomato products.

Dried tomatoes are available in so many guises that if you don’t want to bother with rehydrating, you can use one of the versions that is marinated in olive oil. That one is good for appetizers, with pasta or salads.

The Uncommon Pasta Sauce goes together quickly and is, definitely, more interesting than the “open-the-jar” variety or, maybe even, than your own. The sauce lends itself to much creativity. Add Italian sausage slices, feta cheese, some of the new packaged grilled-chicken chunks, shrimp — the list goes on and on. We enjoyed this recipe on fettuccini with feta cheese topping the pasta and sauce.  

While experimenting with sun-dried tomatoes, I HAD to try a recipe that was a winner in a McCalls’ recipe contest — Tuscan-Style Bread-and-Tomato Salad. This recipe was from Marilou Robinson of Portland, Oregon. It is very different and very good — a meal in itself!

Uncommon Pasta sauce


1 cup chopped onion (1 medium)

2 T olive oil

3 cups boiling water

2 cups or 1 pkg. (3 oz.) dried tomato halves

1 large clove garlic, quartered

1 T chopped parsley

1 t dried basil

1 t dried oregano

1 t lemon juice

Salt to taste



Directions: In large skillet, sauté onions in oil for 5 minutes. Set aside. In electric blender or food processor, combine water and tomatoes. Set aside for 2 to 3 minutes. Do not puree. After waiting, with slotted spoon, remove and set aside one-third of the tomatoes. Puree the remaining tomatoes and water with garlic. Add the puree and the reserved tomatoes to the onions in the skillet. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley, basil, oregano, lemon juice and salt. Simmer for 1 minute and remove from heat. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and toss lightly with half the pasta sauce. Offer remaining sauce at the table. Or, top the pasta with sauce and any toppings you might choose to use. Serves 4.

Tuscan-Style Bread-and-Tomato Salad


1⁄2 loaf Italian or French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (3 cups)

6 T oil from marinated dried tomato halves, julienned

2 small zucchini, diagonally sliced 1⁄2-inch thick rounds

1 small onion, coarsely chopped

1⁄3 cup fresh cilantro leaves

3 T balsamic vinegar

2 cloves garlic

1⁄2 lb. Italian fontina cheese, cut into thin strips

4 cups mixed salad greens, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces

Olive oil

Directions: Preheat oven to 400˚. Place bread cubes on baking sheet. Bake 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until toasted and golden. Transfer bread cubes to large bowl. In large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil from the dried tomatoes over high heat. Add zucchini and onion. Sauté 2 to 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add to bowl with bread cubes. In food processor, combine remaining oil from dried tomatoes, cilantro, vinegar and garlic. Process until smooth. Pour mixture over bread cubes and vegetables, add cheese. Toss to coat. Marinate at room temperature 10 or 20 minutes for a softer bread mixture. To serve, line serving platter with salad greens. Spoon bread mixture on top, mounding in center. Drizzle olive oil on greens. Makes 4 to 5 servings.

What Do You Do With Dried Tomatoes?

Dried Tomato Halves: Soften in boiling water for 2 to 5 minutes. Drain. Use in soups, stews, puree for sauces or toss in salads.

Julienne Strips: Soften in hot water for 2 to 5 minutes. Steam with fresh vegetables. Add to sauces or salads.

Dried Tomato Bits: No softening required. Sprinkle in omelets, quiches, rice. Blend in butter, cream cheese or mayonnaise. Add to dips.

Halves Marinated in Oil: Tomato halves plumped in oil are ready to use. Serve as an antipasto appetizer, slices with goat cheese or add to bread dough.

Marinated Julienne Strips: Ready to use. Toss in salads, pastas or add to sandwiches. 

Storage: Dried keep indefinitely in cool, dark, airtight place. Marinated, refrigerate when opened. Will mold if kept too long.



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