Since the early 80s, sun-dried tomatoes have been a mainstay of Toronto restaurant menus -- so much so that they're almost a culinary cliché. But now that homegrown tomato season is in full swing, here's a way to make that summer bounty last well into the winter -- dehydrate them yourself! And if you're not a backyard gardener, remember that tomatoes will soon cost as little as 29 cents a pound at your local market.
Roma, also known as plum or Italian, tomatoes work best using this oven-drying method, but regular beefsteaks can be dried as well. Cut them in half lengthwise (in 1/2-inch-thick cross-slices if you're using beefsteaks) and remove seeds. Place them cut side up on a greased cookie sheet and lightly sprinkle with salt. Place the sheet on a middle rack in a 170F oven and slow-roast for 6 to 8 hours, until they're moisture-free but still pliable.
Oven-dried tomatoes can be frozen or bottled in olive oil along with a few garlic cloves and rosemary sprigs. They'll keep for months at cool room temperatures or in the fridge. Use the intensified character of these dehydrated wonders to add robust, sun-filled flavour to pizzas, pasta dishes or frittatas.