Why It Works
- The microwave acts upon water molecules, ensuring that they evaporate before the tomato skins brown or cook.
- Cooking them in small, single-layer batches helps them dehydrate more quickly and evenly.
- Grinding the skins with sugar and salt helps amp up the tomato flavor.
- Homemade tangy-sweet tomato powder is a cost-effective way to repurpose a would-be discarded vegetable scrap, great for rimming cocktail glasses, sprinkling on fried food, pizza, pasta, or fresh mozzarella.
Every time I cook from a recipe that calls for just part of a vegetable, I feel like crap—I don't have a compost bin, which means all those scallion greens or tomato skins wind up going straight into the trash. What else can you really do with 'em?
What if I told you that there's actually a great use for these cast-off ingredients, and that it's simple, fast, fun, and delicious? A way that will land you with brightly- hued powdered seasoning that's great for rimming cocktail glasses and sprinkling on everything from fried chicken to fresh mozzarella?
Of course, the idea of transforming vegetable scraps into something that tastes good and lasts in your pantry is nothing new. Chefs do it all the time. What's special here is using the microwave to do in mere minutes what it takes a traditional low-oven method hours to accomplish.
I took some cues from a post we ran a while back about drying herbs in the microwave to preserve flavor and even color. The same principles apply here: simply lay the ingredients on a paper towel, cover with another paper towel, and microwave on high until dry to the touch. The process is incredibly simple, and all you'll need are vegetable scraps, the microwave, and a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. After experimenting with tomato skins, try your hand at scallion green powder using the same method.
If you're wondering why on earth you'd ever have a pile of tomato skins in the first place, take a quick gander at the step-by-step process of how to peel and dice tomatoes and one of our favorite uses for skinless tomatoes: refreshing, smooth-textured coulis. Once your tomato skins are in-hand, pat them dry with a towel and lay them out in a single layer on a stack of two or three paper towels, cover them with another paper towel, and stick them in the microwave on a heat-resistant dish. Be sure not to press the top towel down—I had some skins stick to the towel when I tried pressing out extra moisture that way.
After about four to five minutes in the microwave, they should be papery and crisp, with almost the same bright red hue you started with. A quick spin in the spice blender turns them into a fine or coarse powder.
I've found that the best flavor comes from ripe, flavorful tomatoes—no surprises there. This is a powder I'd only bother with in summer months; bland supermarket tomatoes will yield a flavorless seasoning that you'll wish you'd never bothered with. To amp up the tangy-sweet tomato flavor, I add a pinch of both salt and sugar to the skins once they're in the spice grinder; I'd avoid mixing in strong spices or aromatics, which would likely overpower the delicate flavor.
Skins from 8 medium peeled tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
Line a microwave-safe plate with a double layer of paper towels. Spread as many tomato skins on top as will fit in a single, non-overlapping layer (about 1/4 of skins). Microwave on high for 4 minutes, then continue in 20-second intervals until the skins are papery, dry, and crumble if pinched. Repeat with remaining skins.
Add skins, salt, and sugar to spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Grind until powdered. Store in an air-tight container.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 0g||0%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|Total Sugars 0g|
|Vitamin C 1mg||3%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|