10.29.12 Take A Powder
My fascination with all things powdered and crumbled continues. During our recent dinner at Stone Barns, a tomato powder was served with the bread course, and it added a tart and savory note to the fresh creaminess of their cultured butter. Tomatoes have high levels of naturally occuring glutamates, which are the compounds reponsible for the full, rounded, "meaty" flavors known as umami. It's a big part of what we all love about things like Parmesan, mushrooms and soy sauce. So after making and freezing loads of tomato sauce, I used the last few scarlet beauties of the year to make a jar of powerfully red tomato powder. Sprinkled on a piece of cheese or—mixed with a little salt—on an apple or radish, it adds a lip-smacking tang I find positively addictive.
I eat my fill of fresh tomatoes every summer. Big badass Beefsteaks and sassy striped Zebras. I have them every which way and with abandon. Through the winter, those bags of puree in my freezer, jars of dried and oil-cured cherry tomatoes in the fridge and, now, this shelf-stable powder will keep me satisfied.
There's not much to it: Pristine and perfectly ripe tomatoes. A dehydrator (or low oven). A spice grinder. A glass jar. I removed the seeds, thinking I might get a more pure flavor that way, but I doubt it's necessary.
Make very thin slices. You end up with brittle tomato chips that break down instantly into a frothy powder. Get creative with this devilish fairy dust.
It made for the most satisfying macaroni-&-cheese ever. Brown rice pasta copiously sauced with a goat cheddar and Gruyère-infused béchamel, studded with oil-cured cherry tomatoes and topped with crunchy buckwheat cracker crumbs and a liberal dusting of tomato powder. Take that, Hurricane Sandy!
- — firm, ripe tomatoes
Thiny slice tomatoes. Remove and discards seeds. Lay slices on a parchment- or Silpat-covered dehydrating rack or baking sheet, and dry in a 145-degree dehydrator or oven on lowest setting until completely dry and crisp. Grind into a fine powder. Store in a tightly sealed glass jar.