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Sun-dried tomatoes are fresh tomatoes that have gone through a process of removing the majority of the water from the fruit of the tomato. Instead of using heating chambers to dehydrate the tomatoes, the fruit is sliced and laid out in natural sunlight and allowed to dry naturally. The end result is tomatoes that are easily stored for longer periods of time and can be utilized in all sorts of recipes.
The texture of sun-dried tomatoes is slightly leathery and somewhat reminiscent of beef jerky. While most of the water content is removed, the tomatoes retain a slight amount of moisture that becomes apparent when a slice of dried tomato touches the tongue. In appearance, the sun-dried tomato is not unlike that of a raisin, and is usually not sticky to the touch.
One of the advantages of sun-dried tomatoes is that they lose none of their natural nutritional value as a result of being dried in sunlight. They continue to contain high levels of Vitamin C and lycopene while also maintaining a healthy does of various types of antioxidants. At the same time, sun-dried tomatoes contain relatively few calories and have very low levels of fat and sodium.
Originally, sun-dried tomatoes were produced mainly with the use of plum or cherry tomatoes. These small tomatoes were sliced into two sections and placed with the exposed meat of the tomato facing the sun. Today, just about every type of tomato may be dried in the sun and stored for use at a later date.
There are a number of recipes that call for the use of sun-dried tomatoes. Salad dressings often include the use of chopped pieces of the dehydrated tomatoes. Various types of casseroles, cold salads and even pasta dishes make good use of sun-dried tomatoes.
Along with the easy storage, sun-dried tomatoes can also be re-hydrated for use in various recipes that call for cooked or fresh tomatoes. Placing the sun-dried sections into boiling water for several minutes is usually sufficient to plump up the dried tomatoes and make them ideal for use in soups and in various baked dishes. The reconstituted tomatoes also work well with a number of pasta sauce recipes, adding an additional element of texture to the sauce.
While it is possible to purchase sun-dried tomatoes in many supermarkets and specialty food shops, it is also possible to dry the tomatoes at home. Cutting regular tomatoes into slices that are no more than ½ inch thick and placing the slices on marble or adobe tiles in direct sunlight during the summer months will result in perfectly dried tomatoes that may be used immediately or stored for use once cold weather arrives.
@Pippinwhite: I like them, too, and you're right about the rehydration: they need it. I'd hesitate to use them otherwise.
I saw a fabulous recipe online for a sun dried tomato bread that I'd like to try. It sounded just wonderful and I know my family would enjoy it, too.
One good recipe I found with sun dried tomatoes uses them with fresh spinach, vegetable broth, basil and pine nuts in a pasta dish. Sounded fantastic. That's another one I'm going to have to try.
I'm glad so many TV chefs use these as an ingredient now. It means they're much easier to find in the supermarket.
I'm not sure whether I saw a chef on TV use these first, or if I saw them in the grocery store and wondered how they were used, and then saw them on TV.
In any case, I really like sun-dried tomatoes. I like to rehydrate them a little so they won't be so chewy in the finished dish, but they do add a lot of color and flavor to just about everything and I really enjoy using them, especially in something that needs a little tomato "punch," but not necessarily a can of tomatoes. They're great with pasta and olive oil.
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