I have a very dear friend who moved to Mumbai not too long ago after graduating from college. While there are a million reasons why I love her, one of my favourite things about her is that she is an incredible listener. Living with mom means that there is always a food adventure around the corner, and Taara will listen to me describe, in detail, every single culinary experience and ooh and aah at all the right places. Sign of a keeper, right? (she also has an endearing habit of texting me about 5 times a day asking 'what are you eating now?'. Inevitably, 4 times out of 5, her text will catch me mid-chew).
It was her birthday last month and I wanted to send her a birthday package, and I knew that it had to involve food. Since I'd recently discovered the joys of salted caramel (coming soon!), I knew she was going to get some of that gooey goodness. But besides that, I had recently come upon sun dried tomatoes in mom's pantry and figured it was the perfect thing to send a foodie with little time to cook. They are so pretty too- deep red ribbons suspended in an amber liquid, calling out to be eaten.
Although I love the flavour, I find the texture of raw tomatoes too slippery for my liking. When dried, they lose that slickness and become light, soft and chewy. The herbs do their little dance in the oil and really help the tomato flavour to shine through. Also, can we stop for a minute to appreciate how tomatoes and garlic complement each other so well? Those Italians sure know a thing or two...
While mom usually dries these out in the sun or in the oven, both are fairly long processes, and when you want instant tomato gratification, not such a good idea. Due to watery weather conditions and bad planning on my part, we were forced to use the microwave to speed up the operation. This turned to be a great idea because it took less than half the time and tasted as good.
The garlicky, herb infused oil can be used as dressing for a salad, or to drizzle over pasta. The tomatoes themselves can be added to pastas, salads and sandwiches, or you could eat them like I do- with the fridge propped open, straight out of the jar, telling yourself 'one last one' as you steadily work your way through half the container.
Microwave-dried Tomatoes in Oil
(yields enough to fill a 250ml jar)
1/2 kg ripe tomatoes (medium-sized tomatoes work well here)
enough olive oil to fully immerse the dried tomatoes (roughly 200 ml)
1 tsp dried basil, chopped
1 tsp dried parsley, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
coarse salt to taste
Slice the tomatoes lengthwise into four pieces. Make sure the slices are of roughly the same size, so that they take about the same time to dry.
Line them on the microwave tray and season well.
Microwave on high for 10 minutes, turn the slices over and microwave for another 10 minutes. Check to see if the smaller slices are browning on the edges, if so, they are ready to be taken out.
Now turn the setting to defrost and microwave for 8-10 minutes. Turn the slices over and repeat. Again, check to see if the smaller slices are ready to be removed.
The slices should be light and dry by now. If not give it another 2-4 minutes on either side on defrost setting.
Transfer the slices into a (250 ml or bigger) jar and add the herbs and crushed garlic to it. Pour in the olive oil, enough to cover the tomatoes and give the mixture a good stir. Can be kept out for a week, or in the refrigerator for upto 3 weeks.