Tomatoes

Tomatoes

By
Skye Gyngell
Contains
11 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781844006212
Photographer
Jason Lowe

There is something undeniably wonderful about the sharp, green smell of a tomato plant come midsummer. Put your nose up close to the vine and breathe in. The smell is quite unique – grassy, slightly peppery, pungent and completely summery. In a way, it is a strange smell but I love it. For me, tomatoes are one of the great joys of a summer menu – whether they are properly ripe, soft, sweet and fruity, or still green with a sharp flavour and tight, crunchy flesh. They come in all shapes and sizes – small and round, oval or teardrop, or the shape and size of an ox heart. And in a myriad of hues, from almost chocolate brown – through orange and yellow, striped and green – to perfectly ripe and gloriously red. Heritage tomatoes, San Marzano, cherry, datterini, tiger and coure di bue are some of my favourite varieties.

Although it is possible to buy tomatoes all year round, I encourage you to respect their season – midsummer to early autumn is when they are truly at their best. Silky, fragrant and plump at this time of year, their flavour more than makes up for the months they are not in season. Tomatoes that grace supermarket shelves all year round tend to be of the dependable growing varieties such as Moneymaker. Sadly they rarely have more than a hint of flavour; bland and watery, they add little to any dish.

Instead, look in season for tomatoes that feel heavy for their size and just yield to the touch. Avoid buying fruit that is too soft. The colour – whatever it may be – should be even and free of bruises and blemishes. Always keep tomatoes out of the fridge, as the cold arrests their perfume and flavour, and prevents them from reaching their full potential. Tomatoes that have over-ripened or begun to soften need not be wasted, however, as they can easily be made into a delicious tomato sauce for pasta.

Tomatoes have a natural affinity with nearly all herbs. The classic marriage of perfectly ripe tomatoes and basil is difficult to beat, but in early autumn try tomatoes with the earthy flavour of sage; marjoram, rosemary and oregano also work beautifully. Seasoning is very important. The crystal crunch of good-quality sea salt is the perfect foil for sweet tomato flesh – provided you use just the right amount. Olive oil – extra virgin – enhances the flavour, too. Really sweet tomatoes can take the more peppery olive oils. And a drizzle of good-quality red wine vinegar, or viscous, mellow traditional balsamic is the perfect foil for their sweetness.

Cheese, as I am sure you know, has a happy partnership with tomatoes. Sharp young goat’s cheese, crumbly sheep’s milk cheese and the freshest, softest, gentlest, buffalo mozzarella all work perfectly. Olives, capers and anchovies love tomatoes, too. Finally please don’t forget their affinity with seafood – crab and lobster, in particular. Try the recipe on page 132… it is one of my favourites.

When perfectly ripe and sweet, you can eat tomatoes in the manner of the fruit they are – just like an apple or pear – but perhaps with a pinch of sea salt. At their best, they need nothing else.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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