There are some flavors that just scream Italy for me and really good sun-dried tomatoes and anything made with them is one of them. Sadly, the store bought ones here in the U.S. never taste the same and you can bring only so many with you from Bella Italia.
When I inherited the Big Green Egg, one of the first foods I wanted to make on on was grilled-dried tomatoes and they turned out beautifully after five hours on indirect heat at about 200 Fahrenheit. Since my friends always ask me how I made what they love to eat, here’s a little travelicious DIY tutorial to bringing the flavors of Italy to your table.
Please pardon that there are no exact measurements as that is really not my thing. I love experimenting and while that means that no dish will ever be the same, it’s all about having fun when cooking for me. These grilled-dried tomatoes will vary with the variety of tomatoes used, the oil you choose (this time it was Massimo’s home-squeezed extra-virgin olive oil from Itri, Costa d’Ulysses, Italy – last-time I used a Spanish olive oil that was a gift from the Parador in Cuenca), and last but not least the seasoning which I changed for each batch. Taste your tomatoes before you dry them, if they are very sweet and you like it hot, add some chili flakes, or sprinkle with diced fresh jalapeños, spicy or regular garlic – chopped or sliced – you can play around with different salts, coarse ground white or black pepper and I added some smoked paprika to the storing oil of one batch which I had bought in Charleston, South Carolina on another trip.
Adding special ingredients from previous journeys wether abroad or within the U.S. to what’s cooking at home brings back great travel memories for me and I highly recommend to look into spices and oils whenever you travel as not just gifts for your friends but also your own cooking. One of my favorite places to souvenir shop is always a local specialty grocery store.
So here’s my travelicious take on making delicious sun-dried tomatoes at home on your grill. I also made a few batches on the gas grill and they turned out very well, too – the ones on the Big Green Egg just had an extra smokiness that I really like and it was easier to maintain a constant temperature on it.
What you need?
Tomatoes, preferable Heirloom varieties and bought at the local farmstand or farmer’s market, a good olive oil, aluminum foil, and your favorite spices (pepper, salt, garlic, jalapeños, chili flakes…)
Preparation – takes about 15 minutes (not including the shopping, smile)
Pick your favorite tomatoes, red, striped, yellow, orange… I just love to be inspired by the daily selection of the Farmer’s Market and go for the ripe ones for drying. If they taste sweet, they are perfect! Try something. I have yet to meet a tomato, I don’t like. San Marzanos are perfect, but also any of the smaller varieties worked well for me including German Lunchbox which dry just beautifully.
Slice the tomatoes in half (I also made a small batch of minis that I did not slice, but they didn’t come out the same).
In a mixing bowl, combine olive oil with the spices and then you can either give the tomatoes a quick toss in the oil in bowl before you place them skin side down on the aluminum foil or you can also place the tomatoes on the sheet first and then drizzle the mixture on top. I have yet to figure out if one method is better than the other.
Personally, I always grind some coarse black pepper on top of the dressed tomatoes and also add some extra spices afterwards, before I put them on the grill, but that all depends on your taste.
Put the aluminum foil with tomatoes on your grill at about 200 degrees Fahrenheit and let them grill dry for at least three hours or longer – depending on the size of the tomatoes, how moist or dry you want them to be.
You will know when they are ready and continuous snacking is highly recommended. They can be stored in a ziplock bag or airtight container, you can add extra olive oil to keep them moist. The remaining oil on the fools is great for drizzling over roasted bread, to use on pasta etc. I will try freezing some too.
Would love to hear from you if you enjoyed reading my first ever travelicious DIY tutorial and hope I continue to find the time to keep on documenting some of my favorite travel inspired meals.
Here are some hopefully helpful links for those wanting to dig deeper:
My favorite grill: The Big Green Egg
Heirloom Tomato Recipes from Oh my Veggies