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5 Ways to Make the Most of Tomatoes

Try these tomato tricks to maximize the flavour of this popular vegetable, that’s technically a fruit.

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Store Tomatoes at Room Temperature

Ripe, juicy, just-picked tomatoes have a rich, vibrant taste. But it isn’t improved by refrigeration. Keep good tomatoes in the pantry in a basket so air can circulate around them.

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Capture the Flavour of Tomatoes at Their Peak

Even if you don’t grow your own, it’s worthwhile to get good tomatoes in season from a farmers’ market or farm stand and preserve them for future use. To freeze tomatoes, just cut out the tough part of the core, put the whole tomatoes on a baking sheet and into the freezer. After they’ve frozen, transfer them to a plastic zipper bag and put them back into the freezer. When you want to use them, you can easily peel them if you allow them to thaw until they’re just barely soft on the outside. Then just rub off the skins. Or you can run warm tap water over them and peel them immediately. Use them in recipes for any cooked dish.

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Avoid Crushed and Ground Canned Tomatoes

They’re convenient, yes, because you don’t have to cut up the tomatoes. But they’re often packed in poor-quality tomato paste that has a metallic aftertaste. Use whole canned tomatoes instead. If you’re making sauce in a hurry and don’t have time to cook down all that juice, just pour it off and save it. And instead of cutting up the tomatoes, just break them up with your hands as you add them to the sauce. Canned tomatoes are often very good and always better than poor-quality fresh ones. While you’re at it, avoid most plum tomatoes too. They are often used in cooking because they have more pulp and less juice and seeds, so they cook down faster than some of their juicier relatives. But plum tomatoes in general are quite tasteless, and Roma (the most common in North America) is one of the least flavourful.

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Keep the Tomato Seeds and Skins

A sauce with peels and seeds in it-horrors! That’s some people’s opinion, and they’re entitled to it. But it’s all a matter of taste. The skin and seeds both contribute a great deal to the flavour of a tomato sauce, but if you want to remove the evidence, put the sauce through a food mill. Or make a somewhat coarser sauce with a blender or food processor. Or let it be, with skins and seeds intact. Another sauce tip: When you’ve seen one tomato, you haven’t seen them all. Different varieties have different tastes, and even a single tomato has several aspects to its character. It can be sweet, sour, and salty, all at the same time. You can choose different flavorings to bring out the different facets. Basil, chives, sweet peppers, and even mint will bring out sweetness. Wine, citrus, capers, and vinegars will bring out the sour. The salty aspect will respond to anchovies, olives, capers, and cured meats.

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Make Tomato Sauce Without Simmering All Day

Mamma mia! The tomato sauce that simmers for hours does taste great. But a fresh tomato sauce that takes just minutes to cook has a charm all of its own-especially when it’s made with local tomatoes at the height of their flavour. There are many excellent versions of this sauce.

This one comes from The Sopranos Family Cookbook: As Compiled by Artie Bucco:

1. Cook 2 large, smashed garlic cloves in 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat for about 4 minutes or until the garlic is golden.

2. Add 1 kg very ripe tomatoes, peeled, drained, and chopped. Add salt to taste and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the sauce is thick.

3. Stir in 8 to 10 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces. Serve over hot, cooked pasta.