One of America’s favorite vegetables is really a fruit and didn’t become popular here until the 1900’s. It is actually a member of the nightshade family which includes potatoes and eggplant. To complicate things even more in 1893 the government gave tomatoes the classification of vegetable for trade purposes. But whatever you call it, the varieties are almost endless and growing every day. From tiny grape tomatoes to large beefsteak tomatoes, each has its own use and when fully ripened cannot be beat for flavor. Think grape, cherry, roma or plum, beefsteak and heirloom which are often misshapen and sometimes ugly, but good. The heirloom tomaotes come from seeds that have not been altered by companies desirous of growing the best looking, insect resistant. biggest, littlest, etc. Look for vine ripened tomatoes for the best flavor and even these may need to sit at room temperature.
Whatever variety or size you are using, there are many techniques they have in common. Here are a few.
To ripen tomatoes: Tomatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator if they are not fully ripened. If left at room temperature, they continue to ripen to perfection.
To Cut: Although the skin of tomatoes is relatively thin, it can be very difficult to cut with a regular knife. Use a serrated knife, such as a bread knife or steak knife and it will be a breeze.
To juice a tomato: There are times when excess juice is not welcome in a recipe. To remove the juice, cut the top off the tomato, turn upside down and squeeze.
Seeding tomatoes: If a recipe calls for seeding a tomato, cut the tomato in half and remove the seeds and interior of the tomato with your fingers or a spoon. Only the outer part of the tomato will be left.
To core a tomato: With a small paring knife, cut around the stem end of the tomato about 1/2 to 1 inch deep on an angle. Lift out the core.
To stuff a tomato: One of the best uses of a tomato is stuffing it. Depending upon the recipe, it can be served hot or cold. Cut the top off the tomato and scoop out the inside. This is easily done with a serrated spoon such as a grapefruit spoon. The edge may be decoratively cut if desired. This is an especially easy way to serve cold salads.
Quick things to do with tomatoes:
Using really ripe tomatoes, just slice, chill, sprinkle with salt and enjoy.
Tomatoes and basil have a natural affinity for each other so use them together.
Beefsteak Tomato Salad: One of the easiest salads using ripe tomatoes comes from Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Slice the tomatoes thickly, slice red onions thinly, and alternate them on a serving plate.Sprinkle with bleu cheese and drizzle with vinegar and oil or Italian dressing. Serve really chilled.
Sauteed Grape or Cherry Tomatoes: Heat a little oil until hot in a sauté pan. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 1 minutes until the skins break and the tomatoes soften, add a bit of minced garlic and heat for a few seconds. Sprinkle with finely cut fresh basil, grated asiago or parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. You have a great side dish in a matter of minutes.