What You Should Be Doing with Summer’s Best Tomatoes
Fill your kitchen with bursts of sunshiney sweetness while the going is still good.
When the summer months roll around and the Bay is full to the brim with juicy, bursting heirloom varieties, candy cherry tomatoes, and positively rubescent Early Girls, we may find ourselves wondering how best to use these ephemeral beauties while we still have them. Some varieties really benefit from a stint in the oven, others are best eaten as plain as they come. After all it’s only in these sweet summer months when we’re truly reminded of the fact that tomatoes are indeed fruits: succulent, juicy, and oh-so-sugary.
What’s In a Name
San Marzano and Roma: Lower water content means more concentrated flavor, so use these varieties in tomato sauce or soup.
Brandywine: Giant, juicy, and tangy. These guys are your go-to caprese tomatoes.
Sungolds and Sweet 100s: Sweet and tart “little rays of sunshiney sweetness” (says our produce guy) perfect for fresh salsas and salads.
Green Zebra: These colorful tomatoes are the result of crossbreeding between four (!) different heirloom varieties. Roasting these brings out their bright, tart flavors.
Early Girl: The quintessential tomato, and widely considered to have the best, most intense flavor.
Black Cherry: Surprisingly complex and smoky, this heirloom variety works well spooned over meats and fish.
Where to Put Them
The fine folks over at Serious Eats did a series of experiments on tomatoes to see whether the old adage “Never ever store your tomatoes in the fridge” is actually worth listening to. Their findings? You actually can (and should) if you buy your tomatoes when they’re at peak season locally. Store them stem end facing down in the fridge and they’ll last twice as long. They actually found that leaving tomatoes on the counter for more than a day or two makes them over ripen and rot way more quickly. If you’re looking to stretch your tommies, keep ’em in the fridge.
If you plan on eating those little rubies the next day, though, just leave them on the counter!
How to Prep Them
Using a blunt chef’s knife on tomatoes could cause you to lose a fingertip or two so opt for a serrated edge, which will glide right through the soft flesh… of the tomato! If you’re dicing up a big guy, cut the tomato right down the middle in half, then slice the halves cut side down. If you’re looking for big, round slices for sandwiches or caprese, shave a piece off the bottom of the fruit and put that side flat on the cutting board — that way you always have a nice, safe surface to cut on. Don’t bother coring, peeling, or deseeding tomatoes — the whole tomato tastes like, well, tomato.
If you’re absolutely dreading slicing a million tiny cherry tomatoes in half, put them between two flat surfaces, like tupperware lids, then run a serrated knife between the lids. You’ve just cut every single cherry tomato in one swift movement.
Quick tip: You may have heard that you should never under any circumstances cook tomatoes in a cast iron skillet. Well, we’re here to remind you that hard and fast rules rarely ever exist in the kitchen. If you’re cast iron is well-seasoned, you should have absolutely no problems cooking acidic foods like tomatoes.
How to Eat Them
There’s no shame in a lunch of crusty bread, good butter, a luscious summer tomato, and a sprinkle of salt. Call it like it is, and don’t apologize for it.
For a summery no-fuss salad, toss together whole or halved cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, fresh herbs, a good glug of nice olive oil, any kind of acid, and salt and pepper. Sweet, salty, acidic, peppery perfection!
Combine a glug of olive oil, whole cherry tomatoes, and a sprinkle of salt in a cast-iron or oven-safe pan and roast in a 450 degree oven. They’ll basically make their own sauce in about 20 minutes. Spoon over any carb–polenta and pasta come to mind.