The Florida Tomato Committee would like to offer some tips on handling, preparing and cooking tomatoes.
Treating your tomatoes with a little tender loving care will prevent them from being damaged. The most important thing to remember is to never, ever refrigerate tomatoes. A chilled tomato will not finish ripening as cold halts the ripening process. Cold also kills the flavor of tomatoes, so even when the tomatoes are fully ripe, keep them out of the refrigerator.
If your Florida tomatoes are not yet ripe, you can ripen them by storing them at room temperature in a dry spot. A day or two at room temperature may be enough, usually no more than five days. Just wait until you can see they are a rich red color. Always store your tomatoes tem end up. Leaving a tomato on its shoulders, even for a few days, is enough to bruise it.
Hot Tomato Tips
Coring: Using a sharp paring knife make several angled cuts through the stem and under the core.
Seeding: Lay the tomato on its side and halve with a sharp serrated knife. Squeeze each half firmly enough to push out the seeds. Discard seeds.
Slicing: First core the tomato and lay it on its side. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut a very thin slice off both ends and discard. Slice the tomato to desired thickness.
Peeling: To eliminate the skin in cooked dishes, gently lower 2 or 3 tomatoes at a time into enough boiling water to cover. Boil for 15 to 30 seconds, lift into a colander with a slotted spoon. Rinse briefly under cold running water. Peel off and discard skins.
Stuffing Shells: Lay the tomato on its side and cut a very thin slice off the bottom using a sharp serrated knife. Slice off the top 1/4 of the tomato and discard. (The top minus the core may be chopped and added to the filling.) Using a sharp paring knife and spoon, cut and scoop out the flesh, leaving thickish walls. Salt the cavities lightly and invert on a cooling rack for 15 minutes to drain.
Yield: 1 medium tomato, seeded, yields approximately 3/4 cup chopped. 1 large tomato, seeded, yields 1 cup chopped. One pound of tomatoes yields approximately 2-1/2 cups of chopped or 2 cups puréed.
Tantalizing Cooking Ideas
Tomato Napoleons: Cut peeled tomatoes into four crosswise slices. Layer with marscapone spiked with fresh dill and slivered smoked salmon. Serve on greens with toasts.
Tomato Tartar: Season chopped, seeded tomatoes with olive oil, lemon juice, capers, minced fresh basil, nicoise olives and onion. Serve on endive; use as a dip, or as a topping for crostini, steamed fish or baked potatoes.
Fresh Tomato Salad Pizza: Top pizza dough with Fontina and Parmesan cheese: bake until cheese melts and crust is golden. Top with sliced tomatoes, salad greens, sliced green olives and a drizzle of dressing.
Florida Tomato Toast: Spread mayonnaise onto bread slices then place thinly sliced tomatoes on top (one or two layers). Sprinkle grated mozzarella on top. Bake in oven at 350 degrees F, about 15 minutes.
Roasted Tomatoes: Cut tomatoes in halves; squeeze to release seeds. Place on a rack on a shallow pan, cut-side down. Bake at 450 degrees F, until skin blisters, about 20 minutes.
Upside-Down Tomato Cornbread: Line greased skillet with season tomato slices; pour cornbread batter over tomatoes; cook until bread is done, then invert.
Caribbean Jerk Tomato Salad: Lightly grill tomato wedges brushed with a mixture of oil and jerk seasoning; toss with sliced avocado, hearts of palm and chunks of cool, cooked chicken or pork.
Charred Tomatoes with Garlic and Olives: Broil whole tomatoes until slightly charred, about 10 minutes. Remove skins; chop flesh roughly. Transfer to a pan; add halved garlic cloves, olive oil and salt: roast at 400 degrees F, until thickened and flecked with dark bits, about 1 hour. Serve drizzled with more olive oil and chopped ripe olives. Use as a dip with pita breads.
Thai Tomato Spring Rolls: Wrap a mixture of chopped tomatoes, mint, pork tenderloin, lemongrass and peanuts in wrappers. Serve with spicy soy dipping sauce.
Fried Pink Tomato Sandwiches: Sauté flour or cornmeal-dusted slices of pink tomatoes then place on rounds of polenta that have been seasoned with basil.
Little Tomato Goat Cheese Soufflés: Fill tomatoes with a basic soufflé mixture made with goat cheese and chives. Bake until puffy and golden brown.