To be completely honest, I have never been a big fan of sun dried tomatoes. I want to be, since I love tomatoes, but I have just never been happy with what I have gotten. Too leathery, too tough, too chewy, too salty… I was, though, very intrigued by the opportunity to review Bella Sun Luci’s sun dried tomatoes – maybe working with them at home would give me a new outlook, and maybe I would finally be able to appreciate the beauty of the sun dried tomato. When the package from Mooney Farms arrived at my home, I was quite surprised. There were SIX varieties of tomatoes to try! Four oil packed jars and two “dry” bags. This was a bit intimidating, actually, given my lack of enthusiasm for the product, but also encouraging, seeing that there would be so many options for me to work with.
Jumping in with both feet, I used a jar of oil packed sun dried tomatoes with Italian herbs and made a sun dried tomato risotto. I wanted a dish where the tomatoes would be the featured flavor. I used the flavored oil from the jar to sautee the onions, garlic and risotto, then proceeded with the recipe. I was amazed. The tomatoes were soft to chew, and had a wonderful, mellow flavor where the spices popped in my mouth. And this was before they were cooked. This was unbelievable! Once the risotto was finished, the dish had a beautiful color and a wonderful aroma. The flavor of the tomatoes was perfect – not so strong as to overwhelm the dish, but flavorful enough to provide great taste. Even my two year old daughter enjoyed the “rice with tomatoes.” As for me, the resistant one, I managed to polish off all of the leftovers single handedly…!
As impressed as I was with the taste, I didn’t want to become too infatuated with the ingredient. In my experience, (limited as it might have been) sun dried tomatoes have always been a luxury item, with a price which would be prohibitive to making them an everyday kitchen staple. Researching on the Moony Farms website (www.mooneyfarms.com) was reassuring, seeing that their suggested prices were reasonable – $2.99 for a 3.5 oz. bag and $4.99 for an 8.5 oz. oil packed jar. I was even happier when, at my local grocery store, I saw that the prices were the same! More searching on the website revealed more treasures. There are a wide variety of recipes for their products, as well as some good information about the company’s family-based philosophy and the healthy lifestyle which they use to guide their product choices.
Having tested some of the oil packed tomatoes, I thought it was time to try the “dry” bagged variety. I had always thought that dry sun dried tomatoes had to be soaked and re-plumped before using. These were ready right out of the bag. Tasting one before using it in my recipe, I was again surprised. Without the olive oil to maintain moisture, I thought the bagged tomatoes would be dry and harder to chew. They weren’t! (My husband teased that they might be dangerous to keep around, that he could simply eat them like candy!) These tomatoes were used in a roasted potato salad along with much stronger flavors than the risotto had – onions, garlic, a variety of vegetables and vinegar. The tomatoes, as a part of the mix, added more of a seasoning effect to the salad than an overriding flavor, which was quite pleasant. The texture was also a nice contrast to the smooth potatoes and slightly crunchy vegetables.
Also included in the variety of samples provided to me were two jars of prepared sun dried tomato spreads – one bruschetta topping and one pesto sauce with pine nuts. These I served as is, alongside some home-made French bread, at a gathering of moms and kids. I wasn’t surprised when the moms seemed to be enjoying the spreads, but I was when it became clear that the children – ages 18 months to 5 years, were just as enthusiastic. Both spreads had great textures, being smooth, spreadable and soft to chew. And, just like the other Bella Sun Luci products which I had worked with, they had subtle yet substantial flavors which made them easy to enjoy.
Mooney Farms’ Bella Sun Luci sun dried tomato products have done something which years of eating and tasting have not been able to manage – they have turned me into a sun dried tomato fan! I am now much more willing to try sun dried tomatoes on or in recipes than ever before. Only time will tell if they have spoiled me, making me a “sun dried tomato snob” who will only eat their brand. But even if they have, this is definitely a brand I will return to, one I will purchase on my own in the future.