Chef Dez is the Langley Advance's culinary columnist.

Cooking in Langley: Oven dried instead of sun dried

If you like tomatoes, chances are you also love the taste of robust sun-dried tomatoes. They can be purchased either packed in oil, vacuum packed, or dehydrated; and when buying them from the store, I like the ones packed in oil the best. The ones made from scratch however, are even tastier.

Whatever the process, dried tomatoes are more concentrated in flavour because most of the water content has been removed during the drying process. Although this recipe is called oven dried Tomatoes, they are not really dried; they are still moist but have just shrunk to approximately one-third to one-quarter of their original size and have really intense flavour. We love using these in a number of recipes such as pasta, pizza, sandwiches, or even just eating them on their own.

The downside of this recipe is the length of time they need to be in the oven. Cooking them at a low temperature for a long period of time is the best way to extract moisture, intensify flavours, without burning them in the process.

Close attention is needed in the latter part of the cooking process to ensure that they do not get overcooked, dried out, and/or burnt. The cooking time is an approximation and will depend on a number of factors: the size of the tomatoes, the ripeness of the tomatoes, the correct calibration of your oven, etc. Do not let this scare you however. Just pay attention, that’s all.

This is a great recipe to make on a day when you are going to be home anyway and want the warm Mediterranean aromas filling your house. Since they are not completely dried however, they do not last indefinitely. Once cooled, store them in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to seven days.

Oven Dried Tomatoes

10 fresh Roma tomatoes

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp dried basil leaves (not ground)

1 tbsp dried oregano leaves (not ground)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove and discard any green tops of the tomatoes, slice in half from top to bottom (lengthwise), and place them in a mixing bowl.

Add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, and toss to coat. Gently work a small amount of pulp out of tomato halves while working the flavourings into the tomato cavities.

Arrange the tomatoes cut side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Spoon the remaining liquid from the bowl over the tomatoes and lightly season each one again with salt and pepper.

Bake for approximately 5 to 6 hours, until the tomatoes have reduced by approximately two-thirds or three-quarters in size but are still moist. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.

Use in a number of recipes such as pastas, pizzas, bruscetta, grains, etc.… anywhere you want incredible tomato flavour.

Makes 20 halves

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