What They Are: Botanically speaking, tomatoes are a fruit, but while we do support eating lush ripe tomatoes out of hand as you would an apple or plum, culinarily
speaking tomatoes are treated as a vegetable. (Fun fact: the United States Supreme Court has also ruled that tomatoes are a vegetable.) Members of the nightshade family, tomatoes are high in lycopene which is a powerful anti-oxidant.
What to Do With Them: There is both an art and science to picking a perfect tomato. Great, in-season, summer tomatoes are diverse in size shape and color. To find the best, look for tomatoes without any bruises and breaks in the skin, no mushy spots. (Unless you are making sauce, soup or tomato water right away.) Whatever the color, a great tomato will be deeply colored and perfumed. That’s right, smell your tomatoes. You want a sweet, slightly vegetal or woodsy scent.
Once you’ve got them in your kitchen, never refrigerate tomatoes. NEVER. Also no plastic bags please. Keep your tomatoes at room temperature, with the stem side down. If your tomatoes are under ripe, they will continue to ripen if you leave them alone. If you want to hasten things along, place your tomatoes in a brown paper bag. An apple thrown in will make things even speedier because apples emit ethylene gas, which coaxes ripening along quickly.
When they are ripe, use them in sauces salads, salsas, sandwiches, pastas, pizzas, juices, cocktails. Just about anywhere you can. And use them as often as you can during the all too brief peak season.
What Some Chefs Are Doing With Them: In San Diego, Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant has a chilled tomato soup, spiced with coriander and served with avocado, cucumber, corn, creme fraiche, and tortilla crisps. At NYC’s Lafayette Andrew Carmellini has been serving up Maine Crab à la Nage with sweet chunks of crab meat swimming in a smoky tomato broth. We have also been digging the cold tomato soup with bread, squid, clams, chilis, olives, and purslane at Elizabeth Falkner’s new spot Corvo Bianco and the crazy good savory summer bread pudding at savory bread pudding at the Harrison, which features sweet summer tomatoes and zucchini, with Pecorino and a poached egg on top. Cochon Butcher in New Orleans recently tweeted a Lardo wrapped polenta cake with oven cured tomatoes and thyme that we are dying to try. Also want to try more tomato cocktails like the Mediterranean-inspired martini made with basil-infused vodka and kept cold with two scoops of heirloom tomato sorbet at California’s Pacifica Del Mar or the Italian michelada at Three Aces in Chicago.
Some other great tomato links: