I’m always intrigued by how a barely discovered and exciting culinary trend in one country is just terribly passé in another. Semi-dried tomatoes or “Pomodoraccio” if you buy them in jars, are what slavish followers of food trends might call “over” in Europe, however I rarely see them here in North America, which is a little sad as they are almost effortless to make, and taste like the height of a hot Mediterranean summer.
If you haven’t tried these soft, chewy and savory-sweet gems yet, it’s worth the few minutes it takes to chop up and scatter some tomatoes and deposit them into the oven. Even bland and unremarkable tomatoes will transform into concentrated, candied morsels with the flavor of very fresh sun-dried tomatoes and the texture of slightly chewy roasted tomatoes, and you’ll want to use these everywhere.
I added my latest batch of these umami-laden semi-dried cherry tomatoes to this fresh tabbouleh, which is not strictly traditional, but a happy recreation of a salad I enjoyed during my last visit to London. The flavors are a little Greek, a little Middle Eastern and you could say this salad comes from somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 cup bulghur (or quinoa if you are gluten-free)
1 cup boiling water
1 cup mint, measured unchopped and loosely packed
1 1/2 cups parsley, measured unchopped and loosely packed
1/2 large english cucumber, chopped into medium dice
1/3 cup sliced green onions (use both white and green parts)
8oz/half can of garbanzo beans, drained
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 medium, or 1 1/2 large lemons) + more to taste
3 tbsps olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt + more to taste
1/4 tsp cumin
7oz block feta, broken into pieces by hand or carefully with a fork.
To make the semi-dried cherry tomatoes
Preheat oven to 320F. Dry tomatoes thoroughly after washing. Cut in half lengthways (so the seeds/pulp don’t fall out) and place cut-side up in a single layer in a …pan. Sprinkle with a little salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until edges are drying out but tomatoes have not started to blacken. Remove from oven and leave in pan to cool completely. Note: For drying regular sized tomatoes, reduce oven temperature to 210F and bake for up to 4 hours.
To make the tabbouleh
Place bulghur in a medium bowl, pour in water, stir gently then leave to soak for an hour. Drain of any excess water using a sieve, and place drained bulghur in a large bowl. If substituting quinoa, prepare according to package directions.
Roughly chop mint and parsley, and stir into bulghur. Stir in cucumber, green onions, garbanzo beans, lemon juice and olive oil. Add salt and cumin. Gently mix in tomatoes and feta.
Refrigerate for at least two hours, to allow flavors to blend and develop (the longer this dish sits, the better the flavors). I usually wait until after this resting period to determine if I need to adjust seasoning with a little more salt.
Serve with pita chips or freshly made pita bread.