With the height of tomato season behind us, the time for cooking recipes that require perfectly fresh tomatoes is short. We see tomatoes all year round at our markets and grocery stores, but these sad specimens pale in comparison to the true summer tomatoes which arrive tasting their best in late July and often linger in our climate til October. Grown outdoors in the hot, long summer days and allowed to ripen on the vine, the deep intense tomato flavor can’t be beat!
We see many many kinds of tomatoes at the farmers market and each has their own purpose...
- Tip 1:
Small, intensely sweet cherry and grape tomatoes are excellent in raw preparations, or halved and slowly cooked in a low oven to remove moisture and intensify their flavor and sweetness even more.
- Tip 2:
Plum, early girl, Roma and San Marzano varieties are excellent cooked in stews, sauces and soups.
- Tip 3:
For a simple ready to use tomato puree, take a tip from the Spanish, cut ripe tomatoes in half horizontally through the middle and rub the cut side on the large holes of a box grater leaving the skin behind. When in season, this easily beats any canned tomato on the shelf!
- Tip 4:
For a smoother, more refined puree, remove the jelly and seeds from the cut tomatoes before grating and push it through a fine meshed strainer to take out the seeds, then add the liquid back to the puree.
- Tip 5:
The complex flavors of heirloom tomatoes like Purple Cherokee, Brandywine and Green Zebras and hearty beefsteak tomatoes are best enjoyed at their simplest, accompanied with little more than a fruity olive oil and a pinch of sea salt in a salad or sandwich.
- Tip 6:
When buying tomatoes choose fruit that are firm and feel heavy for their size. Bumpy seams on heirlooms often signal superior taste. For red varieties, make sure the most intense red color goes all the way to the stems, a pale area surrounding the stem means the tomato hasn’t yet ripened. Of course the only true test of a tomato is to taste them, so do what we do and try them all to find the best.
- Tip 7:
To store tomatoes, if it can be helped, never place them in the refrigerator. This robs them of much of their heady scent and compromises the texture. Tomatoes are best left in a cool, dry area of the kitchen, stem side down to evenly distribute their weight. If stored correctly, they will last for many days.