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Filtering by Tag: Tomato Mania

How to Cook the Perfect Tomato

Sarah West

By Sarah West

Tomatoes as an ingredient hardly need an introduction. Once you’ve located a quality specimen, they are one of those foods that you want to alter as little as possible. Perhaps the only best way to eat a ripe tomato is still warm from the vine, their leaves’ zesty perfume wafting from your fingers to mingle with the fruit’s sweet sorcery. But, lucky for us, tomatoes are more versatile than that; perfection comes in many forms. The following recipes prove that a little manipulation can go a long way to heighten, enhance, and honor the essence of a perfect tomato.

Perhaps the best way to describe what to do with a good tomato is to emphasize what not to do with it: that is, keep your tomatoes out of the refrigerator. Cold temperatures obliterate the delicate texture, fragrance, and flavors of homegrown and farmers market tomatoes. Resist every temptation to put them anywhere but a shady corner of your kitchen counter, and your next tomato masterpiece is already ninety-nine percent complete.

Tomato Water – This deceptively simple sauce-juice-marinade can be enjoyed as a beverage (or cocktail mixer), poured over fresh tomato slices, as a finish for tomato risotto, or anything else you can think of that would do well by a drizzle of pure tomato mojo. (link to recipe)

Drowned Bruschetta – The key to a good bruschetta is getting the bread (aka crostini) as crisp as possible. I slice a baguette diagonally to get long, ¼-inch thick slices that I brush on both sides with olive oil. I toast them on a tray in an oven set at 250-degrees, turning them after about five minutes, until both sides are lightly golden and crisp. While the crostini cook and then cool, I slice my tomatoes into ¼-inch bits and heap them in a bowl (I like to mix colors and varieties, but whatever tomato you like best will do), drizzle them lightly with olive oil and a good balsamic vinegar, salt liberally and grind some fresh pepper on top. I turn in the seasonings with freshly torn basil and let the mixture rest a few minutes while I arrange the crostini on a plate. On top of each, I add a heaping spoonful of tomato topping (not worrying if it slides off or mingles with the topping next door—at my house, at least, bruschetta is a beautiful mess), then drizzle them with the liqueur from the bottom of the bowl, soaking the crostini and, if I’m lucky, even leaving a small pool at the bottom of the plate. A well-crisped crostini won’t get soggy; its buttery crunch gives body to the succulent tomatoes and their luxurious juice.

Tomato & Mint: Mint plays up the sweet side of tomato flavor, while the tomato’s earthier tones ground mint’s flighty disposition. Tabouli, with a parsley and bulgur backbone, makes skillful use of this spirited arrangement. But the two are also delicious just on their own, as in this simple and refreshing summer salad: (link to recipe).

Pomodori al Forno – I clipped this recipe out of Bon Appetit seven years ago and regard its dog-eared, oil-stained place in my kitchen notebook with reverence. A perfect way to ring out tomato season (at a time of year when it’s appropriate again to turn your oven on), this easy recipe feeds you twice: first with the impossibly delicious aromas it unleashes in your kitchen, and second with the mouthwatering, deeply rich accompaniment these pomodoris (and their roasting oil) make to a good crust of bread or a plate of pasta. You could pair them with something else, but I can’t imagine what could compare; whenever these are around I don’t want to eat anything else. (link to recipe)

Tomato Mania! Guide

Sarah West

by Sarah West

Each year at the height of tomato season, the market hosts one of our most popular events: Tomato Mania! Volunteers gather the day’s tomato selection from market vendors, slice them up, and spread them out with labels that state the variety name and the vendor that supplied it—comparison shopping at it’s finest! Take a moment out of your market day to explore the range of tomato flavor, savoring old favorites and discovering new ones. Below is a preview of some of the varieties we expect to be sampling this Sunday.

Cherry Tomatoes: Sweet, bite-sized, and available in a rainbow of colors, the cherry tomato category also broadly includes pear tomatoes (shaped like their namesake fruit), grape tomatoes (larger than a typical cherry tomato), and currant tomatoes (smaller than a typical cherry tomato). Bright yellow-orange ‘Sungolds’ are one of the market’s most popular varieties—possibly the sweetest, most addictive cherry tomatoes you’ll ever taste! Cherry tomatoes are best eaten fresh: out of hand, topping salads, or folded into pasta just before serving.

Purple Calabash: Green shouldered, pleated fruits with a distinctive flatness. Their flesh is nearly true purple and offers full flavor and well-balanced acidity some liken to a fruity cabernet. Delicious fresh or cooked.

Striped Roman: One of the flashier tomatoes out there, this one has it all: sweet, rich flavor and fantastic color make ‘Striped Roman’ a marvelous fresh tomato for the salad plate. Like its cousin the red Roma, its meaty flesh cooks down easily into sauce—some say this variety makes the sweetest.

Aunt Ruby’s German Green: Green tomatoes are always a hard sell since our eyes are conditioned to seek out shades of red when it comes to tomato selection. This particular green tomato will wow you with the intensity of its flavor—rich, tart, and deeply sweet it can stand up to the best of the reds. A favorite slicer among tomato connosuers, it also makes a delicious salsa verde. Listed on Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, a collection of heirloom seeds of exceptional quality, this is one beloved tomato. Look for those that are blushing a faint pink on the bottom—your cue that Aunt Ruby’s is ready for eating.

Chef’s Choice: An orange beefsteak-type, Chef’s Choice is a new hybrid tomato, an improvement on the popular heirloom, Amana Orange, which offers the same rich flavor with a quicker ripening period. A relatively new introduction, this variety was chosen as an All American Selection in 2013-2015 for its flavor and garden performance.

Cherokee Purple: This true heirloom (meaning it is not a recently developed cross of tomato characteristics but a strain whose seeds have been passed through generations of gardeners) plays up the savory side of tomato flavor: deep, rich, and earthy. Its purple skin fades to a saturated red in the tomato’s center. Curious about those green shoulders? Turns out they are a sign of superior flavor. The same genes that cause green shoulders in tomatoes are responsible for developing complexity and sweetness. The green parts may ripen much later than the rest of the tomato—don’t expect full ripening and peak flavor to coincide. Cut off the green and slice this heirloom favorite up for dinner!

Black Brandywine: The original pink ‘Brandywine’ tomato was once the poster child of heirloom tomatoes; these days it has a lot more company, but it’s still delicious! ‘Black Brandywine’ is a selection from the original strain: similar rich flavor with skin blushed purplish-brown. Great for fresh eating or cooking.

Yellow Brandywine: A yellow selection of the ‘Brandywine’ heirloom, revered for its surprisingly rich flavor and balance of sweetness and acidity. Best fresh, ‘Yellow Brandywine’ adds a lighter touch to sauces or salsas.

Rutgers: A New Jersey heirloom introduced in the 1930’s truck farming boom, Rutgers was bred as an improved field tomato: with more uniform ripening, richly flavored juice, small seed cavities, and good yields. Though it fell away from commercial popularity when firmness for shipping became the priority, Rutgers remains popular among home gardeners, who use it for fresh eating and preserving.

Orange Oxheart: Oxheart tomatoes have a reputation for offering the best of both worlds: firm, meaty flesh ideal for making salsa or sauce, along with the fragrant, acidic juiciness so coveted in a slicing tomato. This orange variety is the perfect slicer for sandwiches, fresh sauces, or pizza topping.

Pineapple: This carnival-striped tomato is what summer is all about—full-bodied tomato flavor, rich colors, and enough acidity to keep things interesting. Slice this giant to serve with anything that comes off the grill, or just eat wedges of it with nothing more than a sprinkle of salt and the juice dripping down your fingers.

Roma: A type of plum tomato, ‘Roma’ and similar varieties are the quintessential sauce tomato. Their drier flesh and smaller seed cavities concentrate into perfect sauce and are ideal for halving and slow roasting in a low-temperature oven. Synonymous with Italy, these are the home-preserver’s tomato of choice for canning whole and as sauces, ketchup, or pastes.

Note: This article was originally published in 2014 and republished in 2015.