Also Known as
There are few vegetables that better mark the summer months than the sweet juiciness of a vine-ripened tomato. Although tomatoes are now available year-round, the truly wonderful qualities of tomatoes are the best when they are in season from July through September.
Tomatoes have fleshy internal segments filled with slippery seeds surrounded by a watery matrix. They can be red, yellow, orange, green, purple, or brown in color. Although tomatoes are fruits in a botanical sense, they don't have the dessert quality sweetness of other fruits. Instead they have a subtle sweetness that is complemented by a slightly bitter and acidic taste. Cooking tempers the acid and bitter qualities in tomatoes and brings out their warm, rich, sweetness.
Tomato is a wonderfully popular and versatile food that comes in over a thousand different varieties that vary in shape, size and color. There are small cherry tomatoes, bright yellow tomatoes, Italian pear-shaped tomatoes, and the green tomato, famous for its fried preparation in Southern American cuisine.
Blanched and chopped tomatoes
To blanch tomatoes, immerse them, very briefly in boiling water for 1-3 minutes. This will help to loosen the skin and also partially cook to preserve color and flavor. Remove and then plunge into cold water. Let it cool slightly. Peel, deseed and chop them. They are used in recipes like pizza sauce, salsa, pasta etc.
Blanched tomato cubes
To cut blanched tomatoes, first blanch tomatoes by immersing them, very briefly in boiling water for 1-3 minutes. Remove and then plunge into cold water. Cool slightly, place them on a chopping board and using a sharp knife, cut each tomato into half and then cut into small or big square pieces, as per the recipe requirement.
To blanch tomatoes, immerse them, very briefly in boiling water for 1-3 minutes. This will help to loosen the skin and also partially cook to preserve color and flavor. Remove and then plunge into cold water. Let it cool slightly, and then use as desired. Blanching stops the enzyme action that destroys the fresh flavor, color, and texture of tomatoes. You can peel and chop or cut into quarters the blanched tomatoes to the size as per the recipe requirements.
Take a sharp knife, slice it from the top and then cut it into half from the centre. Cut the half portion into another half and remove the seeds from centre. Chop the tomato by cutting them in small pieces approximately ¼ inch in diameter, although the chopped food doesn't need to be exactly the same size. If the recipe calls for the ingredients to be "roughly chopped," make the pieces slightly larger. You can chop both green and red tomatoes in the same way mentioned above. If the recipe calls for peeled and chopped you can also chop a tomato by removing its skin and then chopping it to desired size as the recipe calls for.
Use good quality firm tomatoes to grate tomatoes to ensure less wastage. Hold grater in one hand and the tomato in the other. Using minimum pressure, rub the tomato downwards and grate from thick end or thin end of the grater as required. Grated tomatoes are used primarily as a base for gravy based dishes which give a good texture to the dish.
Try to get evenly sized tomatoes that are ripe and still firm, but not over ripe. To properly roast tomatoes it is necessary to peel and seed them - and remove the interior liquid flesh so that you're left with the thick pulpy part. The tomatoes should be cut in half and then the pieces laid, cut side down side down in a rimmed baking sheet or large pan. Sprinkle the pieces lightly with coarse salt, drizzle with olive oil (they should be well-coated) and coat with thyme and chunks of garlic. Roast tomatoes at 250F degrees until they've shrunk to about 1/3 their original thickness about 3-4 hours depending on the size of the original tomato. Turn the pan around while baking (for even cooking) and remove pieces that get done faster than the others. They'll be wrinkled, flat and thin - but still moist inside not dried. Their color will be brick-red. Store roasted tomatoes in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks and in the freezer for several months.
Holding the tomato vertically, slice using a sharp knife by cutting vertically across the cutting board. Slice them thinly or thickly as the recipe requirement, can used as a garnish or for recipes or salad.
Dice or cube tomato by cutting them into uniform strips. Line up the strips with your non-working hand and cut them into square pieces. Cube them as per the recipe's need regarding the size of the cubes, (for example, "cut into ½-inch cubes").
Place the tomato vertically on the chopping board and cut vertically into 6-8 thick slices will give tomato segments.
Cut the tomato lengthwise in to two halves and cut into 1 ½ long strips making slices.
Clean the tomatoes under cold water. Do not scrub the tomatoes, or they will bruise. Dry them with clean paper towels. Put a clean cutting board on a counter or table with something underneath so that it does not move. Place the tomato on its side on the cutting board. Hold the tomato with one hand. Insert a small, sharp paring knife into the tomato, next to the stem and just outside the core. Hold the knife steady while cutting. Point the knife at an angle towards the centre of the tomato and create a full circle by rotating the tomato as you cut around the stem to form a hollow cavity. Remove the core with the end of the knife. Use the cored tomato for stuffing or use as desired.
Wash the tomatoes thoroughly under cold water. With a sharp knife, halve tomato crosswise. To make any stuffed dish, use a rounded spoon handle, scoop out any remaining seeds.
Place the tomato vertically lengthwise into half. Cut each half piece into half again lengthwise to get four equal quarters. Use quartered tomatoes in salads, stir fried vegetables, pastas, soups like rasam etc.
How to Select
Select Tomatoes that are round, full and feel heavy for their size, smooth skinned with no wrinkles, cracks, bruises or soft spots. They should not have a puffy appearance since this indicates that they will be of inferior flavor and will cause excess waste during preparation. Ripe tomatoes will yield to slight pressure and will have a noticeably sweet fragrance. The skin should be firm and not shriveled. Choose tomatoes that have a deep rich color. Not only is this one of the signs of a delicious tasting tomato, but the deep color also indicates that it has a greater supply of the health-promoting phytonutrient red pigment, lycopene.
· Before serving, wash tomatoes under cool running water and pat dry.
· It is especially important when cooking tomatoes to not use aluminum cookware since their high acid content will interact with the metal. This may result in the migration of the aluminum into the food, which will not only impart an unpleasant taste, but more importantly, may have deleterious effects on your health.
· To make your own tomato paste, simply healthy sauté a couple of cloves of chopped garlic and/or 1-2 large chopped onions a couple of minutes until translucent, then add 8-10 chopped whole tomatoes, a teaspoon of dried or several teaspoons of fresh chopped oregano, basil, and any other herbs you enjoy, such as parsley or rosemary, and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Remove from the heat, drizzle with olive oil, and add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. For a fancier version, sauté chopped olives and/or mushrooms along with the garlic and onions.
· Tomatoes are a great addition to bean and vegetable soups.
· Enjoy a classic Italian salad-sliced onion, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese drizzled with olive oil.
· Combine chopped onions, tomatoes, and chili peppers for an easy to make salsa dip.
· Add tomato slices to sandwiches and salads. To keep things colorful, use yellow, green and purple tomatoes in addition to red ones.
· Tomatoes can be added to the diet in many different ways. Raw tomatoes can be chopped, sliced or grilled and added to omelets, salads, sandwiches and main dishes.
· Processed tomato products can be added to spaghetti sauce, stews or chili.
· Herbs that marry well with tomatoes include basil, oregano, marjoram, pepper, dill weed, thyme, garlic, bay leaf, celery seed, sesame seed, tarragon, chives, and parsley.
How to Store
Since tomatoes are sensitive to cold, and it will impede their ripening process, store them at room temperature and out of direct exposure to sunlight. They will keep for up to a week, depending upon how ripe they are when purchased.
To hasten the ripening process, place them in a paper bag with a banana or apple since the ethylene gas that these fruits emit will increase the tomato's maturation. If the tomatoes begin to become overripe, but you are not yet ready to eat them, place them in the refrigerator where they will keep for more days. Removing them from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before using will help them to regain their maximum flavor and juiciness. Store fresh ripe tomatoes in a cool, dark place, stem-side down, and use within a few days.
• Interestingly, the humble tomato not only thrills the taste buds and brightens the dinner table, but also helps fight disease, being an excellent source of vitamins C, A and K.
• Tomato is also a very good source of potassium, manganese and dietary fibre.
• The lycopene in tomatoes is a potent antioxidant. It fights the spread of cancer cells and is proven to prevent heart disease by reducing lipid oxidation.
• Moreover, tomato contains very little sodium and fat, and is cholesterol-free too. This makes it a tastier and healthier alternative to cream and oil, especially for weight-watchers.
• There is more good news – indulging in tomatoes gives you glowing skin and healthy hair.
• Rich in vitamin A and other beneficial nutrients, tomatoes also delay the onset of cataract.
• What’s more, its high water content is known to be work against urinary infection too – this being a common problem amongst office and school goers, especially in the summer months, we have all the more reason to stock up on tomatoes!