Tips/Recipes: Dried Foods:
Important: It takes about five pounds fresh fruits and vegetables, at least, to make one pound of dried food. Bear this in mind when adding your dried foods to dishes. You don’t want to inadvertently use up your stores needlessly.
Yes, I know, tomatoes are a fruit, but I use them like veggies, so here they stay. Dried tomatoes are a versatile food. If I need to, I lightly break them with a mortar and pestle. They can be broken into smaller pieces and even crushed if required. Other times, I use them as whole slices. It mainly depends on the purpose for which I am using them.
Tip # 1
Reconstituted in Basil Vinegar:
Every year I make basil vinegar mostly for the purpose of reconstituting my home dried tomatoes. I will include the method below. For this purpose I leave the dried tomato slices whole. One can use the basil vinegar and the preferred oil to make vinaigrette for the purpose of marinating the dried tomatoes overnight. Olive oil is traditional. I usually just use the basil vinegar; it depends.
These reconstituted tomato slices are excellent on deli roast beef sandwiches or used sparingly as a pizza topping. If I am using them for pizza, I sprinkle a little garlic over them, or add the garlic to the marinade. I am sure these would be good over other sandwiches, too. I have used them as part of an antipasto.
Tip # 2
I have found that just a few dried tomato pieces can be added to a creamy Italian-style pasta sauce for shrimp or chicken. They add a nice flavor without overwhelming the sauce. Of course you would use all of your traditional spices and herbs for your standard recipes, and maybe some white wine.
Tip # 3
Believe it or not, dried tomato bits can be added to an omelet filling or sprinkled into a scrambled eggs mixture before pouring into a skillet. The flavor is far superior, in my opinion, to using fresh tomatoes for this purpose. Fresh tomatoes impart a watery texture and flavor to the eggs that I find rather unpleasant. The dried tomatoes are a rich, robust addition. Not very much is called for to achieve the desired effect. The idea is to use them more like a spice and not as a substantial amount of the content. These are especially good with mushrooms, cheese and a pinch of basil or oregano.
Tip # 4
Add to taco or burrito fillings. If you are using hamburger, just add the crushed dried tomatoes while you are browning the meat, along with your onion and garlic. Add whatever other spices and ingredients you use in your filling and add enough water to simmer until the water is evaporated and the tomatoes are reconstituted.
Sometimes, in the spring, after we’ve used all of our fresh or frozen ingredients I fall back on my dehydrated foods. Dried, frozen, fresh or canned ingredients may be substituted for one another, or used in various combinations. When I make taco or burrito fillings, I might use dried tomatoes, dried peppers (spicy hot and/or sweet) and dried onions. I season to taste with garlic, oregano, chili powder, a dash of cumin, cayenne pepper and sea salt. I then add the water and perhaps a little salsa or tomato juice, and let it simmer until the spices are blended, the mixture is thick and the dried foods are reconstituted. When you fill your taco shells, add all of the usual trimmings.
One can also add canned or cooked pinto beans to the mixture before simmering and then simmer until the beans have absorbed all of the flavors. This makes a tasty, satisfying meal.
Tip # 5
The following dehydrated vegetables and tomatoes may be added to one of several dip combinations to make a good dip:
Crushed dried tomatoes
Crushed dried onions
*Crushed dried cucumber slices
Crushed sweet red bell pepper
Combine with whatever spices you like. You might choose:
*A pinch of crushed celery seed or a little dried lovage
*1-2 teaspoons of strong country herb vinegar
Bases for the Veggie dip:
1. Sour cream
2. Sour cream and mayonnaise in preferred proportion
3. Cottage cheese, either 4% or 2%
Notes for making dip mix:
1. For this purpose it is good to crush the veggies into bits. Crush the dried cucumber slices almost to a powder, as they will reconstitute into crunchy little bits.
2. Lovage is an herb that can be used as a celery substitute. It is stronger so one uses it sparingly. One of the benefits of lovage is that it is super-hardy and survives zone 4 growing regions wonderfully. It also has some herbal uses for the digestive system.
3. Paprika is one case in which one must buy the better quality spice to get the desired flavor. Try a good Hungarian paprika. It makes all the difference in the world.
Simply fill any size glass jar with your desired fresh herb or herb combination. Do not pack the herbs. Pour your vinegar over the herbs until the jar is full. Then you must place a glass apothecary-type lid over the jar and let the mixture sit in a cool dark place for two weeks. After two weeks, strain the spent herbs out of the vinegar and return the infused vinegar to the glass jar. Replace the glass lid, as any metal will corrode in the presence of vinegar. The herb vinegar will keep all year when stored in a cool, dark place.
For Country-Style herb vinegar I use any combination of the following fresh herbs to taste:
oregano, thyme, lovage, a leaf or two of sage, basil, parsley, garlic, a sprig of tarragon and a sprig of summer or winter savory. The result is truly delicious.
Please see my blog on Preserving Herbs for Winter Cooking and Health.