Tomatoes, in my humble little opinion, are one of the most beautiful foods.  The cherry and grape variety look like tiny Easter eggs, and the big heirlooms with their gradient colors remind me of a Hawaiian sunset. 

I grew especially fond of tomatoes after I spent a few weeks harvesting fruits and vegetables with a farmer, Baptiste, up in Normandy, France.  His prized crop were tomates cerises, or cherry tomatoes. 

If you’re new around here, you can read about my adventure working on his farm—picking tomatoes while Baptiste sang his favorite American song, Cindy Lauper’s Girls Just Want to Have Fun—and what it was like selling produce in a French market (speaking only elementary French).

Image: Andrea Lowry Photography

Image: Andrea Lowry Photography

We’re still getting basketfuls of tomatoes in California, so I wanted to share a few of my favorite tips for processing and cooking with this fruit.

Storing tomatoes: If you’re ever unsure where to store food, take a hint from your grocery store.  Did you find the item in the refrigerated section, or was it on a stand in the middle of the floor?  Tomatoes do best at room temperature, so wash them, dry them well (this is important!) and store in a basket.

Cutting tomatoes:  A serrated knife will slice a tomato without squishing it.

Your tomatoes are about to go bad?  Freeze them!  Wash, dry, and remove core, then place in an airtight container (or plastic bag).  When you’re ready to use them, let thaw for 30 minutes. They won’t be good raw, but you can grate them for a quick pasta sauce, or dice and add to a soup or stew. Frozen, the tomatoes will last about 6 months.


Favorite ways to use tomatoes:

Rustic tomato sauce:  Click here for the recipe.  Sometimes, I add a pinch of chili flakes and then blend to a smooth consistency.

Roasted tomatoes:  I recently had a bunch of tomatoes that were about to go bad, so I made some quick roasted tomatoes that added a nice, unexpected flavor to salads and bruschetta.  Thinly slice tomatoes lengthwise, toss with olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt, and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast at 450 for 25 minutes and let cool.

Image: Andrea Lowry Photography

Image: Andrea Lowry Photography

Heirloom tomato salad:  Slice big, beautiful heirloom tomatoes and arrange on a platter.  Drizzle with high quality olive oil, and sprinkle with lemon zest and a pinch of sea salt.  Garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve immediately.