Thursday, April 19, 2012

Smoked Sun-Dried Tomatoes

I use smoked sun-dried tomatoes in many savory recipes from Spanish tortillas to vegetarian gumbo to carbonara. They add complexity to any dish. There is the sweetness of the concentrated fruit sugars, the natural acidity, a light saltiness from the drying process, and of course, the smoke, which is really the thing that really elevates this ingredient.

A lot of our readers have had trouble finding this slightly elusive ingredient. For this reason, I will give you 3 options for procuring smoked sun-dried tomatoes. If you try them once, you'll be hooked just like we are.

The first way is the simplest: buy them. A company called California Sun-Dry sells smoked sun-dried tomatoes in 3-ounce bags. Click here to view a complete list of where you can find their products.

Another method that's nearly as simple is to add liquid smoke to dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes. I think a good ratio is 1 teaspoon per cup of sun- dried tomatoes. Place sun-dried tomatoes into a food storage container, sprinkle in the liquid smoke, cover, and shake. Set aside in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes so the flavors can meld.

Finally, you may smoke them yourself. It's easy if you have a few simple items and a little know-how. This is my favorite method as it yields an authentic and aromatic smoky flavor. It's best to make these in a large batch. They will keep unrefrigerated for 6 months because they are preserved two ways.

You will need some special equipment to make your own. Many grill-top or stove-top smokers can be found online or at almost any specialty kitchen store like Viking and Willams-Sonoma. I made my own smoker using a 9x12 stainless steel pan with a shallow, perforated basket and a tight-fitting lid. You could also use an old stock pot with a lid and an old footed colander that will fit down inside the pot. Just remember, the lid has to fit tightly to keep the smoke in, and anything you use has to be dedicated to smoking -- it will be completely ruined for any other purpose. The main thing is that the large pan has to be at least 1 inch deeper than the perforated pan so that there's room for the wood chips. You'll also need an outdoor gas grill and some wood chips, which are available at most grocery stores -- especially during the summer months.
The following instructions work for smoking any non-meltable foods like mushrooms, dates, grapes, sun-dried tomatoes, potatoes, sea salt, or tofu. Do not try this method with a cheese that will melt, because, well, it will melt. That said, this is a wonderful and simple way to impart a ton of flavor into some very unexpected things.

Quick Smoking Method:

1. Soak a handful of hickory wood chips and two handfuls of applewood chips in water for about 20 minutes. (I think this is the best mix of pungent hickory and fruity applewood smoke. If you like less intense smoke flavor, go with all-fruit wood like apple or cherry.)
2. Drain chips and set them in the bottom of your smoker pan. Turn your grill on high. Caveat: I do not recommend doing this inside as it produces a ton of smoke. Place the smoker pan directly over the flame of your outdoor gas grill (the side burner works best for this) and leave it alone. After 8 minutes, you will notice a lot of smoke coming from the chips; this is a good thing!
3. Lay sun-dried tomatoes (or mushrooms, dates, garlic or anything else you want to taste smoky) in a single layer in the smoker basket and place over the smoking wood chips.
4. Cover with a tight-fitting lid. Wait 4 minutes. It doesn't take long for vegetables and fruit to soak up that smoke flavor. Remove smoked tomatoes from the basket and allow it all to cool.

Any one of these 3 methods will give you that rich, savory, smoky flavor that adds so much to so many vegetarian dishes. Give smoked-sun dried tomatoes a try. What will you make with them?


tender b. said...

This is very helpful since I never seem to be able to find them.

Anonymous said...

I found hickory smoked sundried tomatoes on on site called Australian Gourmet Panrty. Absolutely delicious. Saves smoking them yourself.