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Vintage California Cuisine: 300 Recipes from the First Cookbooks Published in the Golden State



By Hans Rockenwagner, Bright Binns

Easy Home-Cured Tomatoes

'I still can’t believe that people buy sundried tomatoes in a supermarket," exclaims Hans Rockenwagner, the German born chef who owns the acclaimed Los Angeles restaurant that bears his name. In his similarly eponymous cookbook, Rockenwagner, he explains how easy it is to make inexpensive but far superior substitutes. He cures tomatoes in his oven, a technique that apparently is widely used by many leading chefs, according to Loretta Keller, chef and owner of Bizou restaurant in San Francisco

Rockenwagner uses plum tomatoes cut in half with the cores removed if they are woody. He generously brushes baking sheets with several tablespoons of olive, arranges the tomatoes on the sheets cut side up and sprinkles them with salt, pepper and dried thyme or marjoram. Then he dries the tomatoes in a 150-degree oven for 6 to 8 hours, "or until they are shriveled and slightly golden, but still juicy, with a very deep and concentrated flavor."

He stores them as is for up to one week in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Or, to store them for up to three weeks, he covers them with olive oil.

"Storing them in olive oil gives them a wonderful flavor and creates an aromatic oil that is great for sauteing and vinaigrettes," Rockenwagner writes. For a variation, he suggests adding a few garlic cloves to the oil.

The chief difficulty with this method is maintaining the oven at a low enough temperature to dry the tomatoes without burning them. Use an oven thermometer, he advises, and if the oven gets too hot, prop it open an inch or so with a bunched up kitchen towel.

Copyright 2005 Seasonal Chef