Monday, August 2, 2010


Tis the season.

Tomatoes are in and I want to help to keep things simple. A good first principle is that canned tomatoes are for cooking and fresh tomatoes are to be eaten fresh. Most of us will simply cut or slice a fresh tomato and add it to a salad or sandwich. Here is a preparation that takes longer to write about then perform and will significantly improve your summer tomato pleasure.

Filleting a tomato. The pics are self explanatory. Here are some essentials. Just barely score the flesh. Immerse in boiling water for no more than a minute (you will notice the skin start to curl).

The point is not to cook the tomato. Plunge in a bowl of icy water. Remove center core. Peel.

Cut from the top to the bottom of the tomato at the point where the flesh is thickest. Err on the side of thicker. You can always remove excess with your fingers. Sometimes you will create a quarter piece or often the whole will remain intact.

These fillets are obviously dryer and thus better on bread, lack uggies which freak most kids and some adults, and can also be sliced and or diced for a variety of uses. Your salsa will improve at once.

Collect the uggies in a sieve and press and strain them for juice.

Here is a fabulous recipe: Under cook 1/2 pound of pasta by a minute. Save a half cup of cooking water. Heat retained 1/2 cup juice in saute pan, add pasta, swirl in hot water as needed to moisten, stir till absorbed (about a minute), turn out. Top with sliced fillets of tomato, oil, some shredded basil, a crack of black pepper or red flakes, a sprinkle of salt, serve 4.

A side dish: Roma style tomatoes are grown because they have thick flesh, a high meat to juice ratio and thus are perfect for cooking. There is no reason to grow your own given the producers do a great job of the whole process, including canning.
San Marzano "style" tomatoes are Roma type and unless labeled DOP are grown here. A lot of time and energy has been spent tasting different canned tomatoes and conclusions are reached that might have you going out and spending 5 bucks a can in the belief that an Italian San Marzano is a better tomato. If we were eating them from the can (we don't) the expense might be warranted. Given that, at least, we will smash a garlic clove, add a pepper flake, and cook our tomatoes in olive oil for at least 20 minutes I defy anyone to distinguish the difference in the source of the tomato once cooked. More important is to notice the amount of sodium added to the can. It varies widely and you don't need the extra salt. You can always add your own.
Consider how you want your canned tomatoes to perform and purchase the appropriate style. Crushed, sometimes labeled "kitchen ready" are the simplest for a basic sauce. Italians buy jars of "passata" for their sauce which are essentially crushed tomatoes passed through a sieve. You might want diced to hold up a little texture for a cooked TEX/MEX salsa, and whole tomatoes can stew with a chicken and hold up.
Many eschew tomato paste as something less then authentic. Big mistake. For years I couldn't discern what it was that smelled so rich emanating from the back of checkered tablecloth "Ity" restaurants. I couldn't duplicate that aroma and I knew it was key to a successful sauce. Roberto Donna of Galileo in D.C. finally clued me in. Caramelize a couple of tablespoons of paste in oil with garlic till just lightly brown and then proceed to add tomatoes etc. Ah the love.

1 comment:

  1. Very much enjoyed the pasta dish last night. I hope you post more!