Sunday, August 12, 2007
Obviously, not the computer or the office kind.
I have been writing about tomatoes--info and recipes--and am embarassed to say that it didn't occur to me until this current trip to Vermont and my burgeoning harvest to understand that the different ways of different styles of preparation--particularly raw in salads--depended a great deal on the kind of tomatoes regularly available in a given area.
I have often told that the French peel their tomatoes while the Italians don't for salad. That I cut into chunks digging my knife into the tomato and rotating it to get a conical piece with skin on the largest face. the French use acid, usually white wine or tarragon vinegar, on their salads while the Italians do not. I use lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. We all use good olive oil, salt and pepper.
My epiphanyabout the tomatoes came because a friend brought me some gorgeous tomatoes grown from French seed with the customary bumpy tops at the stem end. When I cut into one for a salad, I realized that the skin was thickish and tough hence the French need to peel. This is easy to do if the tomatoes are ripe as I was shown by a farm wife in Provence when she caught me, to her dismay, ready to plunge a beautiful tomato into boiling water. She simply ran the back--dull--edge of a knife over the skin which loosened it enought to peel.
Italian tomatoes--not plums which are used for sauce--are often of the ox heart or other thin skinned variety and do not need to be peeled. these tomatoes are more acidic than the French ones hence the lack of added acid.
I use American varieties that are generally thin skinned but have a very large amount of delicious juice. Cutting them the way that I do helps to hold them together. They are generally somewhere between the French and Italian in acidity. I add a small amount of acid and prefer the fruitiness of lemon juice or the acid-sweet balance of balsamic that resembles that of tomatoes.
Plum tomatoes are very dense and better for sauce but don't need to be peeled as the skin is removed by pureeing after cooking. I often use Americen-style round tomatoes, but their juiciness means longer cooking. Mexicans tend to use tomatillos--not a kind of tomato--in raw sauce (salsas) as they are firmer and have good acid.
The various small round tomatoes as well as the pear-shaped ones are simply too small to peel and are best popped in the mouth raw. Watch out they spurt; lean over to protect clothing. They can also be made into sauce which will be slightly more acid than plum tomato sauce and again require quite long cooking due to those spurting juices.
There, I've confessed...Maybe, the rest of the summer will bring more delayed revelation.
Tomatoes are obviously ideal for soup both hot and cold as well as sauces. I fyou go to the web page, bkafka.com, and click on recipes you will find in a day or so my recipe for gazpacho which is still one of my most requested ones. The recipe isn't here because I've already run on too long.