Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cooking with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

The St Bartholomew's staff for whom I cook for their Monday staff meetings includes several people who have to avoid certain foods. The individual for whom I cannot cook with seeds or chopped nuts will not be there this Monday.

That was my chance to use some sun-dried tomatoes I've been keeping for a while. We put them in a couple of dishes at the restaurant, but I don't cook with them often at home.

This Italian ingredient is relatively new on the American cooking scene, only a generation or so. So there are not many dishes here using them.

Here's a creation that takes advantage of dried tomatoes' special qualities. I revive the tomatoes in wine, both at home and at the restaurant. Dried tomatoes have a tangy, acidic flavor that, to me needs something a little sweet to balance them. Fried onions and carrots serve that purpose in this dish.

It's a heavy stew, hinting of northern Italy or southern France. Probably the best accompaniment for it would be polenta. But other starchy, mildly flavored side dishes would work, like brown rice or pasta.

The recipe serves six. I made a double batch for the Monday group, and offered brown rice with it.

Chicken Stewed with Dried Tomatoes

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, cut in dice
1/2 cup red wine
1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced 1/4 inch
1 cup water
2-inch sprig fresh rosemary (do not use dried; substitute 1 large bay leaf)
2-inch sprig fresh thyme or 1/8 teaspoon dried
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in 1 1/4-inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt
2 fresh basil leaves

Dice tomatoes if not already done. Soak tomatoes in wine while preparing the other ingredients.

In heavy pan, fry onion in olive oil, stirring frequently, until softened and beginning to turn golden.

Add garlic and carrot. Fry 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add tomatoes and their marinade, water, rosemary and thyme. Simmer, covered but stirring periodically, until carrots are tender.

Add chicken and salt. Raise temperature until mixture boils. Reduce heat again and simmer, covered but stirring frequently, until meat is cooked, 12 to 15 minutes. If liquid dries down, add a little water.

Remove stems of herbs. Taste and add salt, if needed.

Remove from heat. Stir in basil leaves.

The dish is tastiest if allowed to cool then reheated to serve. Check salt when reheating.


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