Tomatoes bring flavor, texture, and color to a variety of dishes in the kitchen. They are versatile enough to be enjoyed raw, grilled, roasted, sauteed, or slow cooked. Plus, tomatoes are key ingredients in pasta sauces, creamy tomato soup, and many salsas.
No matter what kind of tomatoes you’re cooking with, there are a few trips and tricks to get the best results, starting with how to shop for and store tomatoes.
Tomato Shopping and Storage Tips
Richly colored tomatoes often have the most flavor so look vibrant hues. Avoid tomatoes with a pale or watered down tone.
You can also check for flavor and ripeness by giving the stem end of a tomato a whiff. Ripe, flavorful tomatoes will give off a just-picked tomato smell.
Tomato skins should be smooth and not wrinkled. Wrinkled skin is a sign tomatoes are past their peak ripeness. Tomatoes should be firm to the touch but not overly hard or soft.
Once you bring tomatoes home, they should be stored at room temperature until you’re ready to use them. Storing tomatoes in the refrigerator diminishes the flavor and turns tomatoes soft and mushy.
Types of Tomatoes and How to Use Them in Recipes
With so many tomatoes available in an assortment of colors, shapes, and sizes, how do you know which type is best for your recipe?
A tomato’s main flavor notes are acidic and sweet. The ratio of acid to sweetness varies depending on tomato variety and is one factor to consider when choosing which type of tomato to use in a recipe.
Here’s a list of common tomato varieties and the best way to use each.
Roma or plum
Characteristics of plum tomatoes are thicker flesh with less water and seeds. Because plum tomatoes are less watery, they’re ideal for cooking with heat. Plum tomatoes make excellent thick tomato sauces.
Large and round, beefsteak tomatoes are your best choice for creating thick and hearty tomato slices for a layered caprese salad or topping sandwiches and burgers.
Beefsteak tomatoes have more water and seeds than plum tomatoes, so they’re not the best choice for making sauces or other recipes where you don’t want to add a lot of excess moisture.
Grape and cherry tomatoes
Grape tomatoes may be round or pear shaped and are smaller than cherry varieties. Cherry tomatoes are larger and round. These tiny tomatoes come in a variety of colors and tend to have a concentrated sweet flavor which can be enjoyed raw or cooked.
Besides snacking on raw, grape and cherry tomatoes are a favorite salad topping. They’re also excellent sauteed with a bit of olive oil and garlic and served over pasta.
Cherry tomatoes can also be hollowed out and stuffed with fillings like whipped cheese or egg or chicken salad for a bite-sized appetizer.
Heirloom tomatoes refer to numerous tomato varieties that have been cultivated for generations. You’ll find heirlooms in deep hues of brown, orange, red, green, and purple. As previously mentioned, these vibrant colors are rich in flavor.
Heirlooms are best enjoyed in salads, on sandwiches, or grilled. They make an especially beautiful addition to a rust panzanella salad or a simple raw sliced tomato platter.
On the vine tomatoes
Tomatoes on the vine can be used in any of the above mentioned ways. They can also be used to up the visual appeal of snack spreads and charcuterie boards.
More tips for cooking with tomatoes
– The best tool to slice tomatoes is a serrated knife. Very sharp, straight-edged knives can slice through a tomato, but tend to require more pressure to cut through the skin which can result in bruised, squashed tomatoes.
– If you own aluminum cookware, you want to steer clear of it when cooking tomato recipes. The acid in tomatoes reacts with aluminum, which turns tomatoes bitter and can damage aluminum pots and pans. Instead, choose non-reactive cookware and utensils when you’re preparing tomato recipes.
– Most recipes can be made with whole tomatoes with the skin on, but if you prefer no trace of tomato skins, blanching tomatoes can help you quickly remove the skins. Simply place tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds, then remove and place in a bowl of ice water. The tomato skins should slip off easily.
– If you want to remove seeds from a tomato, simply squeeze halved tomatoes or use a small spoon to scoop out the seeds.
– Tomato sauces and other tomato-based dishes that taste too acidic can be balanced with a pinch each of baking soda and sugar. A pinch of salt may also help balance too much acid and make the dish taste more tomato-y.
– The flavor of tomatoes can further be enhanced with fresh or dried herbs. They pair wonderfully with most herbal flavors, including basil, oregano, dill, parsley, cilantro, thyme, chives, and more.
Selecting beautiful, colorful tomatoes can elevate the taste, visual appeal, and enjoyment of many dishes. With a rich brown color and bold flavor, NatureSweet Eclipses can elevate both raw and cooked tomato recipes.