Sun-dried tomatoes saw their American heyday for about 20 years between 1980 and the late 90s. According to Taste, two cultural food transitions generated interest in this simple Mediterranean food.
At the time, the newly popular Mediterranean diet, along with the rise of cooking shows and glossy food magazines, tempted Americans back into their kitchens. The tasty sun-dried tomato rode the crest of home-cooking enthusiasm. Americans were smitten with this tangy, chewy, umami-rich food, tossing them onto pizzas, into salads, and making the dried tomatoey nuggets sauce centerpieces.
Although sun-dried tomatoes remained popular with home cooks, a combination of overuse on restaurant menus across all price spectrums, followed by harsh criticism from Ruth Reichl, the New York Times restaurant critic from 1993 to 1999 — that it was too much of a good thing — nearly killed the taste for these chewy nuggets.
Even though many believe the sun-dried tomato has passed its prime, it adds unforgettable finish to a sauce, lending brightness and zing. It’s also an easy way to add some brightness and zing to life in quarantine. Pop open a jar and inhale deeply. Even if the tomatoes spent time in a dehydrator to shrivel up their juices, you’ll still get a tantalizing whiff of Italian sunshine.
Drying tomatoes in the sun goes back to antiquity.
Originally cultivated in South America, European explorers introduced the tomato to southern Italians and other Mediterranean cuisines in the 1500s. The practice of slow drying juicy tomatoes on sunny rooftops was intended for preservation. Through this practice, tomatoes could be served year round.
With demand for sun-dried tomatoes increasing in both homes and restaurants, simplified production methods helped meet demand. Dehydration reduced drying time — from days to hours — although tomato purists believe flavor intensity is sacrificed.
The recipe here uses sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, available at most grocery stores. Use the tomato-infused oil to cook the recipe, boosting its tangy tomato essence. Quick and easy to prepare, boneless chicken breasts partner with sliced mushrooms and slivered kale or spinach to pull together a one pot sauce. Toss into pasta or serve with rice.
Sun-dried Tomatoes and Chicken with Pasta Recipe
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced 1/2″ thick
- 1 pound white or cremini mushrooms, cleaned, ends trimmed, sliced into 1/2″ pieces
- 4 Lacinato kale leaves or fresh spinach, about 1 cup, tough stems removed, slivered
- 1 cup California Sun-Dry sun-dried tomatoes in oil, julienne cut, oil from jar reserved
- 1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
- 2 T butter
- pasta or rice, cooked according to package directions
To cook the recipe:
Warm 2 tablespoons oil from sun-dried tomatoes jar in large skillet over medium heat. Brown chicken until lightly colored and no longer pink. Remove chicken to clean plate.
Add 1 tablespoon oil from reserved tomato jar, or use extra virgin olive oil, if preferred. Add butter and melt over medium heat until froth subsides. Cook mushrooms in oil-butter mixture until browned and mushroom juices have nearly reabsorbed.
Toss kale into skillet alongside mushrooms and stir to incorporate. Pour in sun-dried tomatoes without oil, and cook, breaking up into smaller pieces with wooden spoon, about 2-3 minutes.
Pour chicken broth into skillet and return chicken pieces. Simmer chicken mixture for 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve over pasta or with rice.