Preparing and Cooking Tomatoes

Preparing and Cooking Tomatoes

Ideally, tomatoes should be allowed to ripen slowly on the plant so that their flavor can develop. Consequently, home-grown tomatoes are best, followed by those grown and sold locally. When buying from a supermarket or greengrocer, look at the leafy green tops; the fresher they look the better. Buy locally grown beefsteak or cherry tomatoes for salads and plum tomatoes for rich sauces. Paler tomatoes or those tinged with green will redden if kept in a brown paper bag or the salad drawer of the fridge, but if you intend to use tomatoes straight away, buy bright red specimens. Overripe tomatoes, where the skin has split and they seem to be bursting with juice, are excellent in soups. However, check for any sign of mould or decay, as this will spoil all your good efforts.

When preparing, slice tomatoes across rather than downwards for salads and pizza toppings. For wedges, cut downwards; halve or quarter and cut into two or three depending on the size of the tomato. Among the many classic tomato dishes is tomato soup, cooked to a delicate orange color with stock or milk, or simmered with vegetables, garlic and basil.

In Provencal cooking and Italian dishes, tomatoes are used with fish, meat and vegetables, in sauces and stuffing, with pasta and in superb salads. The natural astringency of tomatoes means that, in salads, they need only be sprinkled with a fruity olive oil.

Chopped tomatoes add a depth of flavor to all sorts of meat and vegetarian dishes. Ideally, even in fairly rustic meals, the tomatoes should be peeled, since the skin can be irritating to eat once cooked. Some sauces also recommend seeding tomatoes, in which case cut the tomato into halves and scoop out the seeds before chopping. If skinning of tomatoes is required, just cut a cross in the tops of the tomatoes, then place in a bowl and pour over boiling water. Leave for a minute, then use a sharp knife to peel away the skin, which should come away easily. Do a few at a time otherwise they will begin to cook while soaking; boil the kettle for the next batch when you have finished peeling. The water must be boiling.

More Vegetables Guide

Visitors Currently Online: 11