Even though I gave up on growing my own tomatoes this year, I still have a number of these gifted garden-fresh delights just waiting to be used. The perfectly ripe tomatoes from my sister call out to be made into summer’s delicious delicacy—the BLT sandwich with garden tomatoes. Or should they become fresh salsa? The more recently gifted heirloom tomatoes from my sister-in-law and brother-in-law have a tint of green on top so I ponder their use as they ripen and become ready to be eaten. Ah, the sweet dilemmas of summer’s bounty.
There are so many ways in which to use these delicious fruits, whether you have your own garden-grown tomatoes, gifts, or pick them up from the grocery store or farmers’ market. Here are two classic ways to enjoy tomatoes—a light, fresh tomato salsa and a sauce based on French technique from Twin Cities chef and Saint Paul College Culinary Arts instructor Jason Ross, which both appeared in Real Food. The salsa is a great way to use just a few tomatoes, and the sauce makes the most of a pile of them. Plus, scroll down for links to more recipes for these glorious orbs.
Don’t refrigerate tomatoes (unless they’ve been cut open). Store them at room temperature away from sunlight and use within a few days. Cold temperatures stop the ripening process, dull the flavor, and can make the flesh pulpy. Once fully ripe, tomatoes can be refrigerated for a few days, but any longer will cause their flavor to deteriorate.
Want to speed up ripening? Place tomatoes in a paper bag, fold over the top and keep at room temperature or in a warmish spot. For added “ripening power” place a ripening banana or apple in the bag with the green tomatoes can help them ripen since the fruits release ethylene, which is a gas produced by plants known as the “fruit-ripening hormone.” Then don’t forget to peek in the bag periodically to check ripening progress!
Fresh Tomato Salsa
Makes 4 Cups
Easy to throw together, this vibrant, peak-season salsa lets tomatoes shine. As with most simple recipes, taste testing and seasoning adjustments are crucial to ensure the right balance of flavors.
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon finely minced red onion
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 tablespoon lime juice, or more to taste
1½ pounds tomatoes (about 4 large or 6 medium), cored and cut into ¼-inch dice
¼ cup minced cilantro
- In a non-reactive bowl, combine jalapeño, onion, salt and lime juice. Allow onion and jalapeño to sit; the salt and acid in the lime juice will soften and balance the intense and sometimes harsh flavors of raw onion and peppers.
- Core and cut tomatoes into ¼-inch dice. Mince cilantro. Gently stir into salsa and taste for seasoning, acidity, and heat level, adding salt and lime juice to taste. Fresh salsa is best eaten the same day.
Fresh from the Garden Tomato Sauce
Makes 2 Quarts
Sauce tomate is considered one of the mother sauces of French cuisine. It employs cured pork and chicken broth to create a rich tomato sauce. The extra flavor leaves diners wondering what makes it so good.
For the Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 slice bacon (optional)
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 medium stalk celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
8 pounds fresh tomatoes, (about 24 large or 32 medium) peeled, cored and chopped (see Cook’s Notes)
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 quarts chicken broth
For the Sachet
2 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme (or ¼ teaspoon dry)
5 black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- In a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium heat, add oil and sauté bacon until it begins to release some fat but does not turn brown. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic and sauté 3 to 4 minutes, until vegetables soften but do not brown.
- Stir in tomato paste and cook 4 to 5 minutes, until aroma intensifies and color shifts to brick red. Add tomatoes and stir in salt and sugar. Cook 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, as liquid evaporates and flavor intensifies.
- Add broth and sachet, bring liquid to a gentle simmer, and cook, uncovered, 1 to 1½ hours. Sauce should have a thickened consistency; cook longer if necessary to reach desired consistency. Remove and discard sachet and bacon. Add salt to taste.
- For a finer sauce, purée using an immersion blender, food processor, food mill or blender. Using a spatula or ladle, push through a heavyweight strainer into a bowl. Store sauce in sealed containers in refrigerator up to 1 week or in freezer up to 6 months.
• To peel tomatoes, assemble a large pot of boiling water, a bowl of ice water, a paring knife, and a slotted spoon. Remove the core from the tomatoes, and using a paring knife, score the skin of the tomatoes, marking an X on the bottom. This is where you will grab the skin to peel it later. Place the tomatoes into the boiling water a few at a time and blanch briefly, about 1 minute depending on ripeness (the riper they are, the less time they need in the boiling water). The trick is to cook the tomatoes just enough to loosen the skins without turning them to mush. Using a slotted spoon, remove tomatoes and drop into the ice water. Grab the skin with your thumb and the side of a paring knife and pull to remove. If skin is stubborn, return to the boiling water to loosen further.
• Using Sachets for Flavor: A sachet functions much like a tea bag; it adds flavor by steeping herbs and spice in a hot liquid and is easy to remove and discard. To make a sachet, lay out a piece of cheesecloth and add spices and herbs. Wrap the cheesecloth into a pouch and tie with butcher’s twine.
Nutrition info (per serving)
• Salsa (2 Tbsp.): Calories 5 (1 from fat); Fat 0g (Sat. 0g); Chol 0mg; Sodium 76mg; Carb 1g; Fiber 0g; Protein 0g
• Sauce (½ cup): Calories 78 (22 from fat); Fat 3g (Sat. 0g); Chol 0mg; Sodium 1186mg; Carb 13g; Fiber 3g; Protein 3g
Hungry for More?
Tomato Talk: When and How to Enjoy This Fruit (Veggie?)
Celebrate the tomato harvest with another take on a fresh, delicious sauce recipe from Twin Cities chef Jason Ross, plus tips and more recipes
Slow-Roasted Summer Tomatoes
Enjoy the flavor of summer all year long with your own slow-roasted tomatoes you can grab from the freezer.
Got Herbs? Try these Recipes with Basil and Dill
Make the most of your fresh herbs in recipes for Basil and Pistachio Pesto with Heritage Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella and Dill Cream Sauce with Smoked Salmon + 12 more ideas
Stuffed Tomatoes with Brown Rice, Oregano, and Pine Nuts
This useful recipe celebrating tomato season is good for vegetarians or for serving with fish, meat, or chicken.
Rosemary Chicken Salad Stuffed Tomatoes
A fresh take on chicken salad packs easily for a picnic or potluck and offers a lighter option at backyard barbecues