Via Facebook and Twitter, I'm still reading about folks putting up the last of their tomatoes for the winter, so I think you'll find this post quite timely.
While I do grow my own tomatoes in my garden, my yield is often not what I hope. I have also had much better luck with small, prolific tomatoes like Sungolds than with bigger, beefier tomatoes, ideal for slicing and canning.
So, like many of you, I usually turn to my local farmers when it's time to put up tomatoes for the winter.
This year, I bought half a bushel.
Now, that may not seem like much but, trust me, when you wash them and line them up on the kitchen counter, it's a lot.
And I mean A LOT.
I didn't weigh my box but a quick search shows that the standard weight for a bushel of tomatoes in the United States is 53 pounds. So I'm guessing I had about 25 pounds of tomatoes.
Instead of simply making the whole lot into sauce for the freezer, I got a little creative this year.
I turned a good portion of the tomatoes into marinated dried tomatoes, which are a winter-time staple at Casa de Ninj. Holy crap, these tomatoes are so so SO good. I use them on pizzas, and they are even better rehydrated in a cream sauce over pasta. I've posted the recipe before, so be sure to check it out.
About two-thirds ended up as a sauce base. Why a base, not a full sauce? Laziness -- whoops, I mean STEALTHINESS. I coarsely chopped the tomatoes and threw 'em in a big pot with a little water and cooked them down for about an hour. Then I immersion blended them (skins and seeds, too -- I'm not fussy) and put them into 2-cup containers in the freezer. When I decide to make pasta sauce, I just defrost as many portions as I need.
But my sauce base always needs a little oomph. I usually wind up sauteing some ground beef or turkey with onion and herbs to add to the base, along with a little tomato paste. Then I realized that I could make an even better oomph-builder: dried, powdered tomatoes.
So that's how I used my the remainder of the half bushel.
My cousin recently bought a dehydrator (come on, after all my dehydrating posts, you know you need one!) and tried her hand at making vegetable powders. She let me know how incredibly easy it was so I gave it a shot.
Slice the tomatoes about 1/4-inch thick, lay them on the dehydrator trays and dry at 145 degrees until ridiculously dry and brittle (they should break like potato chips). With my Excalibur dehydrator, this took about 15 hours, so be prepared for the long haul.
Once thoroughly dried, simply pulverize the bejesus out of the tomatoes in a coffee/spice grinder (the best option) or, if you don't own a grinder, in your blender or food processor. You want to grind them enough so they turn into powder. Store them in an airtight container and add a spoonful to things like soups and sauces.
Wherever you need a little more oomph.
And then, frankly, just go crazy: you can dry all sorts of veggies this way. Spinach and kale powders would be perfect for greening up a smoothie, don't you think?
How do you use vegetable powders? Leave a comment below: The Ninj wants to know.