Spring is 28 days away. She stands beyond us like a cruel temptress. She is Keats’ La Belle Dame Sans Merci, a beautiful, unattainable tease. And then I dreamed of tomatoes, ripe, red… beautiful, unattainable.

My reserve has wavered; I buy more and more food from places far away, trying to please a homegrown palate. And so it was with tomatoes. I found them in the grocery store, six in a package, organic but pale and hard. I bought them anyway… weak… so weak.

Well, once home, I had to do something with them—they weren’t cheap! And, deep down I knew they weren’t very tasty either. Could I fix that? You know…. I could.

At least once during the winter, I give in to this need for a tomato, and while I can’t really have that fresh-off-the-vine flavor, I can have something pretty good—oven-dried tomatoes, a synch to make and a delightful surprise on the midwinter dinner table. Plus, your whole house will smell like an Italian kitchen.

My recipe comes from my best-loved Italian chef, Jack Bishop of America’s Test Kitchen fame. I first made these one Christmas to go on a plate with spinach pesto pasta—red and green, get it? But I had promised my husband scampi last week—his favorite shrimp dish. The best recipe I know for scampi comes from Joy of Cooking—simple, quick and classic. So I paired them up for a special little Saturday night dinner at home. And you can, too!

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Well, that’s it. A truly elegant dish, that is very satisfying. By the way, my gluten-free daughter also loves this dish.

I’m good for a few more weeks now. I’m sure asparagus is just around the corner! Well… I can dream, can’t I?

tomatoes on screen ready for drying in the oven

Here is what your tomatoes should look like going in the oven. I use my pizza screen, and it works great.

Oven-dried tomatoes

Here is what your tomatoes should look like when done–about six hours later.