My Kind of ‘Convenience Foods’: Frozen Peas and Canned Tomatoes

Thank the Gods for frozen peas!

Yes, I know you read the heading and thought- “What?! Samantha FoodGeek should be canning her own tomatoes and shelling and freezing her own peas…right?” Well, I must confess that while I do believe all food should be as fresh as possible, I have a weakness for some of what I call “Pantry Staples”- pantry to me also includes the freezer too. I love the convenience of frozen peas and canned whole tomatoes. It’s amazing, convenient and if you read the labels, very nutritious and wholesome and in some cases, more superior to the fresh product.

I thank the Gods constantly for the miracle that is frozen peas! Have you ever shelled peas before? How about a whole case of peas? It’s not pleasant and the results are not very satisfying either. You end up with more pods than peas and then in most cases, if you don’t have the freshest peas, the sugar turns to starch very quickly and you have mealy, starchy peas. Too much trouble for me, especially when the wonder of mechanization has allowed farmers to harvest, shell and freeze the peas in a short amount of time, resulting in sweet, tender peas. Sounds wonderful to me!

While fresh tomatoes, especially in the summer are wonderful, the season can be very short. So for the rest of the year, canned tomatoes are a wonderful substitute. In some cases the canned tomatoes are tastier and more consistent in quality than the fresh variety, so I can find no fault with canned tomatoes. I love that you can add either of these products to  some sautéed onions, water and some salt, you can create a quick and easy pureed soup! Plus, I love that it can be a great addition to anything you can be cooking- when I’ve made fried rice from leftover rice and other assorted leftovers, I throw in some peas to add color and bump up the vegetable count. When I make an omelet and I need tomatoes, but don’t have fresh on hand, I open a can, chop a couple of drained tomatoes and stir it into my eggs. Ta-da! More vegetables! And tomato sauces for pasta and stews and braises are lost without the concentrated taste of canned tomatoes. There is always at least one can of tomatoes in the pantry and a bag of frozen peas in the freezer.

Canned tomatoes can morph into a soup, a salsa, a vinaigrette or a sauce. I’ve also treated the tomatoes separately from the juice. I like drying the tomatoes in the oven to create another side dish or add it to my grilled cheese sandwiches. When I need to make a fancy appetizer, I take the oven-dried and roughly chop them, put them on some toasted baguette slice and top with a slice of feta and a drizzle of some fancy olive oil or some dribbles of aged balsamic.

Here’s my technique for oven-dried canned tomatoes. Give it a try and experiment with it in your cooking repertoire.

1 Can Whole Plum or San Marzano Tomatoes

Sheet Pan or Jelly Roll Pan

Parchment Paper

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place a piece of parchment on the sheet pan.
  2. Open the can of tomatoes and drain the juice. Set the juice aside for another recipe. Gently squeeze the juice from the tomato and place it on the sheet pan. Continue with remaining tomatoes and space evenly on the pan.
  3. Place the sheet pan in the oven and let bake for 2-3 hours until dry but slightly plump and sticky. Check the oven every half hour or so and rotate the pan to ensure even cooking. When the tomatoes are done, let them cool before storing them in an air-tight container.  Keeps for about 1 week, if they last that long! Enjoy.

Before baking

Viola! Oven Dried Tomatoes.


Barbara-Lee Doye

Posted January 04, 2012

Could the dried tomatoes be stored in EVOO in a Jar and kept in the frig and the oil be used for other recipes?


    Posted January 05, 2012

    I forgot to mention this- if I don’t use all the tomatoes, I place the rest in a jar and cover it with olive oil and stick it the fridge- then it’s called ‘tomato confit’! I sometimes add raw garlic slivers to the oil, gently warm it, then pour it over the tomatoes for a tastier tomato confit.

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