I have had a bag of sun-dried tomatoes sitting in my pantry for two months. While just about anything else I did not buy in bulk has rotated through there, on the shelf it sits.
It’s not that I don’t have ideas for how to use it. I have tons… it’s just… I want to save it for an extra special time.
I’ve loved sun-dried tomatoes for years, ever since that creamy sun-dried tomato paste my mom used to make. They’re just not exactly on the cheap side. So, when I had a few extra dollars, for a couple ounces I got them… and there they sit.
In the meantime though, I am getting my love for that rich tomato flavor for pennies. One that I am actually willing to make, and use without a supernatural sign that says “this is an occasional special enough to use the real deal.”
It is a cheaper cheater “sun-dried” tomato spread – made from tomato paste.
Yes, I am a cheater cheater tomato paste eater.
It’s so important to have a “go to” list for easy party foods that are made with real food, those items I can make quickly and without much thought when I have to bring a dish to pass to a big (hopefully peaceful) family gathering. Whether you’re hosting something yourself and need Mary’s tips for Stress-Free Entertaining or are traveling with food, If you are still looking for some healthy appetizers and homemade party food, you’re in luck!
When I bring food to a party, (whether it’s a football party, or a holiday party, or any other type of potluck get together) it must follow some if not all of the following qualifications:
- Real Food (whole ingredients, homemade, not processed)
- Not Too Expensive (is it tacky to say “cheap”?)
- Quick and Easy (often mutually exclusive with nos. 1 & 2, so this one is regularly compromised)
- Simple to Pack and Pass
Keeping these easy party food rules loosely in mind helps me to Eat Well, Spend Less when I’m sharing food or hosting a party, and that makes everyone happy.
Concentrating on Flavor
Tomato paste and sun-dried tomatoes are hardly the same. They are both concentrated tomato flavors, and that is where the similarities end. But, that is enough to work with, especially when I am motivated by the cost difference in a dollar can of tomato paste vs. a $5 bottle of sun-dried tomato spread.
The first step is to caramelize the tomato paste. If you put tomato paste and oil in a pan and cook over medium heat, the paste changes colors and the oil takes on a beautiful red hue.
Then of course comes the seasoning. I have seasoned this in different ways, and when I opened my spice drawer to make this one more time in order to write the post, the rosemary and nutmeg begged to be used. Despite feeling like I should stop listening when spices talk to me, I listened and was glad I did. They were simple but delicious additions.
Other flavors are garlic, because garlic runs my kitchen, and white wine vinegar to get a bit of the tang that is present in sun-dried tomato. Of course salt too. Plenty of it!
After it is flavored and caramelized it needs only to be blended, to help incorporate the oil, and then it is ready and willing to be spread on bread, crackers, or in our “we eat a unique diet thanks to allergies” way lentil wraps.Print
I love the concentrated tanginess of sundried tomatoes, but not the price, so here is a cheaper cheater version of sundried tomato spread that gets that richness of flavor for pennies.
- In a small pot mix the nutmeg. Put over medium heat and cook and stir for a minute or two or until the garlic is translucent. , garlic, rosemary, and
- Add the , and begin to break it up into the oil (they won’t mix). Stir and cook for 4-5 minutes until the tomato paste looks darker and the oil is very red.
- Transfer to a blender or food processor and pulse together. Add in the vinegar and to taste (you’ll want it salty since it is a spread.)
- Store in the fridge. Pictured it is straight from the fridge, and therefore kind of thick, if you want it thinner let sit out of the fridge for 30 minutes or so.
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