Nobody needs to be sold on buying tomatoes in the summertime. In fact, you could argue that they’re one of the main reasons farmers markets have thrived the way they have.
But just because everyone is buying tomatoes doesn’t mean that everyone knows what to do with them. With that in mind, here are a few pointers.
First, and maybe most important, though everyone glories in dead-ripe tomatoes, that’s probably not the way you want to buy them. Unless you’re going to be using them right away, and in a recipe where they’re going to be smushed into the dish, such as gazpacho or panzanella, you’re better off buying firmer tomatoes.
Tomatoes are a fruit that will continue to ripen after being picked. Choosing them while they’re still firm means avoiding fruit that has been bruised or otherwise damaged by over-aggressive shoppers.
When you get the tomatoes home, you have to figure out how to keep them until you’re ready to use them. Believe it or not, there is great controversy about how to do this. The world seems divided between armed camps for and against — there’s merit in both arguments.
If you have followed my advice and chosen tomatoes that are still firm, store them at room temperature. Remember, they will continue to ripen to full flavor.
Once the tomatoes have begun to soften, it’s a race to the finish line. Refrigerating them will keep them edible longer, but I still believe there’s some cost to the flavor. Still, it’s better to have tomatoes that are slightly less tasty than tomatoes that are good for nothing but attracting fruit flies.
If you’re going to cook tomatoes, you really should peel them first. Otherwise, those peels will slip loose in the dish, which just looks sloppy. You don’t want that, do you?
It’s easy enough to do: Cut an “X” in the blossom end and blanch them in boiling water until the peel starts to lift away. Transfer them to ice water to stop the cooking and peel with your fingers. You can simply squeeze the seeds out with your hands.
How to Choose: Tomatoes should be vibrantly colored with taut, shiny skin. There should be no soft or wrinkly spots.
How to Store: Until they’re fully ripe, keep tomatoes on the counter at room temperature. Once they’re ripe, you can refrigerate them to extend their life, but they won’t taste quite as good. Your choice.