Some good tips for tomato fans


September 06, 2006|By Erica Marcus | Erica Marcus,NEWSDAY

How do I handle the abundance of tomatoes this time of year?

Here are some tips on making the most of tomato season:

When selecting tomatoes, look for ones that give off a distinct tomatoey aroma. Depending on the variety, they may be tautly firm or give slightly, but there should be no bruises or soft spots. Don't worry, however, about seams, discoloration or bumps. That perfectly smooth, round and evenly hued tomato has been bred for looks, not taste.

Don't buy a tomato expecting it to ripen any further once you get it home. It may get softer, but its flavor won't improve.

Do not refrigerate tomatoes; the cold air will kill their taste. And, unless they are cherry tomatoes, don't stack them on top of or next to one another. Your goal in storing tomatoes is to maximize air flow around them and to minimize the amount of pressure against them. I store them on the counter or in a shallow basket, stem-end down.

All but the very sharpest straight-edge knives will crush a tomato before penetrating the skin. Use a serrated knife.

To chop a tomato, cut it in half through the poles (not along the equator) and lay both halves flat on a board. Holding the half together with your fingers, use the other hand to slice it first lengthwise then crosswise. Discard the stem end. Once you've chopped the tomatoes, transfer them into a footed colander (in the sink or over a bowl), sprinkle with coarse salt and toss with your fingers. Allow to drain for as long as an hour. (Some chefs use the "tomato water" as a base for cold soups or sauces.)

Season chopped tomatoes with pepper, fresh garlic or fresh herbs. You then can spoon the mixture over grilled fish or meat or place in a bowl with fresh ricotta or cubes of fresh mozzarella and toss with hot pasta.

Erica Marcus writes for Newsday. E-mail your queries to, or send them to Erica Marcus, Food/Part 2, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, NY 11747-4250.

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