Native to Mexico and Central America the tomato is one of those foods that changed the culinary landscape after its discovery. Tomatoes actually had an inauspicious beginning since they were thought to be poisonous. This was due to the fact that unripe fruits as well as the other parts of the plant contain a toxic alkaloid. Now it is hard to think of life without these fruits. There are over 1,000 varieties in all shapes, colors and sizes.
When purchasing tomatoes look for firm, smooth fruits with good color and no wrinkles or cracks. Ripe tomatoes will have a pleasant odor and yield to light pressure from the fingers. Fruits that are soft, mottled or bruised will likely be watery, flavorless and spoil rapidly. The best time to purchase fresh tomatoes is at the end of the Summer from local growers like those from your farmer’s market.
Tomatoes can be eaten raw or cooked. They work well in a wide variety of dishes as well as cooking techniques and thus have become a staple in many cuisines around the world. No matter what tomato variety, the basic anatomy stays the same. Tomatoes connect to the plant at a stem. The fruit consists of a fleshy wall surrounded by a membranous skin. The fruit contains hollow spaces full of seeds and moisture.
Tomatoes are usually just cut and used. However, there is a way to peel and seed a tomato when that is desired. Concasse, from the French concasser, “to crush or grind”, is a classic French technique which means to rough chop an ingredient. Now the term usually refers to tomatoes which have been peeled, seeded, chopped or diced. The specific cut depends on the use of the tomato.
To concasse a tomato you will need to start by cutting an x into the opposite side of the stem.
Next, stem the tomato by simply using a paring knife to cut a circle in a cone shape around the stem and remove it. This step can be done after the tomatoes have been peeled and are about to be cut.
Next, drop the tomatoes into some boiling water for 15 to 30 seconds. Any longer and the tomatoes will start turning to mush.
Immediately after removing the tomatoes from the boiling water, drop them into an ice water bath. This stops the tomato from cooking further.
Once the tomatoes are cool the skin should just peel off. Use the paring knife to help if need be.
To seed the tomatoes you can either cut the tomato in half and squeeze out the juice and seeds, or cut the tomato into wedges and cut out the seeds. If you have not removed the stem, now would be the time to do it.
Once you have removed the seeds you can stop there and use the tomatoes as is, or you can further process them and rough chop or dice them for whatever purpose you need.
That is how easy it is to peel and seed a tomato and opens up possibilities of what you can do with your tomatoes. This also works well for making tomato “petals” that can be marinated or fine diced for bruschetta.
All images received from Charleigh McAlexander.