Be aware of what you cook tomatoes with. The high acid content of the tomato slows down the cooking process of some other foods. Dried beans cooked with tomatoes can take up to twenty percent more cooking time than beans without tomatoes. If you have some unusually highly acidic tomatoes and you want a sweeter sauce, add finely grated carrots instead of sugar to the recipe. It will boost the natural sweetness of the final product with a vegetal kick instead of a treacle sugar rush.
Never use an aluminum pot, pan or utensil when cooking tomatoes, or any other soft metal items for that matter. The acidity in the tomato doesn’t do well with them, they create a chemical reaction and can turn cooked tomatoes bitter, fades the color and the food will absorb some of the aluminum! And guess what? The acid in the tomatoes can pit and discolor the aluminum cookware. But you shouldn’t be cooking with those anyway.
For small volumes of fresh skinless tomato puree, I place the bloom end of a large tomato against the large holes of a standing box grater. I hold the flat of the stem end in my palm and I grate quickly over a plate. The tomato puree falls to the plate and the skin stays in your hand. Diane Kochilas taught me this 7 years ago and I love it!
Don’t pile your tomatoes in a container that doesn’t breath, I like to use my baskets or grass mesh plates. Keep them in a single layer, stem end down to prevent bruises and premature rotting.
Don’t ripen picked tomatoes in the sun. Put under-ripe tomatoes and stone fruits in a paper bag in cool dark place and magic happens. And never ever store them in the fridge, they turn mushy and flavorless. If you have tomatoes on the counter going bad, puree and freeze them, or simply freeze whole tomatoes and you can puree/strain later! They peel even easier when defrosted.
Tomato Recipes to Try:
Originally published in Andrew Zimmern’s Kitchen Adventures on foodandwine.com.
Photograph by Madeleine Hill.