Last summer, I was fortunate enough to get a gift of organically grown, perfectly ripe cherry tomatoes that were harvested by the horticulture students at my local college. I was so excited! For a chef, you see, that is one of the most beautiful gifts you can get!
The question was what to do with them? Salad? Pasta? Sauce? I had enough that I could do a few recipes with them, but the first thing on the agenda was something I’d been craving for a while.
Inspired by the sun-dried tomatoes I saw in Sicily, I decided to oven-dry these beauties, but adding some garlic, olive oil and herbs. I could have gone traditional using rosemary, thyme and parsley, but instead I decided to give these tomatoes a Mexican twist by using epazote.
Epazote is a herb used in many traditional Mexican recipes. It has a very pungent aroma reminiscent of anise, fennel and tarragon, and once it cooks, it blends beautifully with the other ingredients in the preparation.
This recipe could not be any easier - you just need some patience because it needs to cook very slowly. Slow baking in a low temperature oven cooks the tomatoes in such a way that they start to caramelize and then they pack a huge flavor punch. Toss everything together, and then let the oven do the work. Check every hour and bake for 2-3 hours, depending on how dry you want your tomatoes. Once they’re done, you can use them in many ways - in pastas, blended into salad dressings or dips, or use them to top fabulous bread toasts like our bruschetta.
Make a mixture of crema and cotija cheese, add some fresh herbs like chives or parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Spread this mixture on your toasted bread with top with the oven-dried tomatoes. Garnish with a small epazote leaf and you’re ready to enjoy a fabulous taste of summer.