Once You Try Tomato Powder You'll Wonder How You Lived Without It
Is there anything tomatoes don't make better? OK maybe cereal, but you're just being difficult. Eggs, cheese, salads, pasta, pizza, burritos, burgers, casseroles, bloody marys, sauces—and that famous sandwich isn't called a "BL" now is it? The problem is that for a good chunk of the year, tomatoes are pretty cardboard and cruddy and not worth eating. That's where tomato powder comes into play. Tomato powder? Didn't I hear about that somewhere recently? Yup, you did, last week when I unleashed my Paleo Doritos toast upon the planet, but it was buried down in the recipe and it would be cruel to deprive roll-my-eyes-at-Paleo folks of the wonder of the almighty tomato powder.
What is tomato powder, exactly? That's easy: dehydrated tomatoes that have been ground down to dust, and which can be sprinkled lightly or liberally on anything that could benefit from a blast of deep, savory flavor. Call it "umami" if you wanna get fancy (and accurate), but seriously, don't miss out on another minute of life where you could be enjoying tomato powder and yet aren't.
Yes, you can buy tomato powder if you'd care to, and if you're lucky enough to have a bumper crop of tomatoes and a dehydrator, go right ahead. But if you wanna get down and dirty on the cheap and quick, I figured out a way to make tomato powder from canned tomato paste in a plain old oven, no technology or abstention until tomato season required.
To make tomato powder, get a can of your favorite tomato paste and using a rubber spatula, spread it directly onto an ungreased baking sheet as thinly as possible. (On an early attempt, I lined the sheet with aluminum foil and that ended up flaking into the tomato when I tried to remove it. Not cute.) Bake the paste in a 200°F oven for 2-3 hours, checking every 20-30 minutes to make sure that it isn't burning. Scrape and re-spread paste to hasten the drying process. When the sauce is thoroughly dry and crumbly, remove it from the heat. Let it cool, and then scrape it off the pan with a sharp-edged spatula or a knife. It may peel up like fruit leather and that's fine, so long as it's not too moist. Grind this finely in a food processor or a spice grinder and store it in a sealed container.
The resulting tomato powder is strongly-flavored and ready to deploy on pretty much any food you desire. Start out with your favorite egg preparation, buttered toast, or mixed with salt on the rim of a glass. From there, the only barrier is how much restraint you can show between making stashes. I am currently across the country from my home and I have a little baggie of tomato powder in my purse. Luckily it didn't cause any problems with the TSA, but if it does on the way back, maybe they'll confiscate it, sample it, and change the name to the Tomato Security Administration. It's that freaking good.