Tomato lovers rejoice! Heirloom tomatoes of all shapes and sizes have begun to hit our local farmers markets. Before you run out to stock up or pick those beauties from your own garden make sure you know how to store and prepare tomatoes at every stage of ripeness. It makes all the difference between perfectly delicious and perfectly flavorless tomatoes.
What to do with Under-Ripe Tomatoes
Refrigerating in this stage is a total no-no. Doing so will result in soft, mealy tomatoes that taste blah! These babies need some time to incubate. So store under-ripe tomatoes at room temperature on the counter for a few days to ripen or make some Southern Fried Green Tomatoes. Simply slice the tomatoes, coat them in your favorite cornmeal mixture and fry them up in a cast iron skillet until golden brown on each side. Drain them on paper towels and serve them up hot!
What to do with Ripe Tomatoes
Ripe tomatoes are best used right away in my opinion. Technically you can put them in the fridge to stop the ripening process. But then you need to bring them back out again for a day or two to recover their flavor. That sounds like a lot of planning and I know you have more important things to think about. So instead, put them in a sandwich or salad. Better yet, make them into a meal on their own. Hollow them out. Drizzle the inside with olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper then stuff them with tuna salad, egg salad or a grain salad. Serve them with a side of local greens and voila! You have a quick and easy healthy cold meal for a hot day.
What to do with Over-Ripe Tomatoes
So you had perfectly ripe tomatoes and the best intentions but you didn't get to them and now they're a little squishy. It's O.K. You're only human. As long as they're not moldy go ahead and store them in the fridge until you're ready to cook them. Medium to large over-ripe tomatoes like romas and Jerseys are great for sauces. But I love to roast smaller sized tomatoes like campari, and grape tomatoes. Toss them whole in a large bowl with olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and/or crushed red, and Herbs de Provence. Transfer them to a baking dish and roast in preheated 425 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until just soft enough to slightly crush the tomatoes with a spoon. Enjoy them on crostini with ricotta or goat cheese, over baked brie, or spread on toasted naan rubbed with crushed garlic and drizzled with olive oil.
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