Far be it for me to take the subject of testing sun-dried tomatoes lightly. Upon receiving this shipment of tomato products to test, I sprang into action and got testers, recipes (though several were included), and my camera ready for this month-long test. I had my test subjects--a jar of Roland plain sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, and a local market's own sun-dried tomatoes--to compare with my samples. Missing, unfortunately, was my favorite condiment: Cal Sun-Dry tomatoes. Until now, they were the only herbed-oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes I'd ever had, and I remembered them being salty, sweet, tangy, bursting with flavor. Needless to say, I was excited to try everything that had been sent by Mooney Farms, which owns Bella Sun Luci and operates out of Chico, California.
We had three varieties of dry, julienned sun-dried tomatoes: Italian Basil, Greek Oregano, Basil, & Garlic, and Zesty Peppers, and four jars of sun-dried-inspired goodies. There were tomato halves with Italian herbs packed in olive oil, julienne-cut tomatoes with herbs in oil, a sun-dried tomato pesto, and bruschetta of the sun-dried variety. And though my fingers may now be tired from typing sun-dried so many times, our mouths haven't tired of this snackable but fancy snack. (Well, it's meant to be an ingredient and topping, but we spent much of our time just snacking on it straight.)
We dug in immediately, and cooked a variety of dishes over the next few weeks. I had mozzarella ball pasta salad, parmesan and sun-dried tomato quiche, pastas and breads dipped in the pesto and bruschetta, and more. I even made breakfast burritos the sun-dried way rather than using my usual salsa.
The dried bags of sun-dried tomatoes were very snackable. While I'm not normally one to enjoy munching on dried veggies, these tangy morsels were awesome straight from the bag. The jarred products, while delicious alone, were also quite useful as add-ins, toppings, and sauces for a variety of foods.
The bruschetta is not your normal chunky-tomato fix. Instead, it's an interpretation on a sun-dried tomato spread, with tangy bits of basil, pine nuts, walnuts, and spices. If you're picturing a traditional jar of fresh herbed tomatoes will be sorely disappointed. But if you can open your mind to a different kind of bruschetta topping, you'll be pleasantly surprised. After all, Bella Sun Lucci isn't a fresh tomato company: sun-dried is their thing! I rather prefer this spread to the fresh thing now. It's less messy and much more zesty. I used it as a topping on pasta, a dip for buckwheat bread, and a spread on pita.
The pesto was very tasty, though much chunkier than one normally sees. It's not a traditional tomato pesto paste--nor does it claim to be. I enjoyed nibbling it and using it as a spread (we LOVED the soft chew of the whole pine nuts) in addition to using it on pasta.
The julienned and halved sun-dried tomatoes packed in herbs and olive oil are my favorite for snacking. Twice a day I probably reach into my fridge for a bite. Other times, I'll throw them into a pasta salad, mix them with eggs for a unique baked dish, or just...nibble some more.
Though Bella Sun Luci isn't the only company doing dry and oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, they're likely one of the best--and certainly better than Roland or even store-brand varieties. They've got more zest, more flavor, and more...oomph.
3.5-oz. dry bags retail for around $2.99
Glass jars packed in extra virgin olive oil retail for around $4.99
Bella Sun Luci also sells pasta sauces, dips, olive oils, and more.
PS - Enter your original recipe online in the Bella Sun Luci recipe contest through July 1st, 2014, to win $2,500. Even if you don't win, you'll still love these sun-kissed edibles.