Tasteless Tomatoes

Posted by Sally Swift

I've been thinking a lot this week about something we wrote about in How To Eat Weekends: the idea of doctoring up tasteless tomatoes. With tomato season essentially over for much of the country and my die-hards clinging hard and fast to the vine, it's time to take matters into my own hands. When I started thinking about what makes a tomato pop with flavor, I realized that it's the high flavors that light me up -- the pop of sweet against that bite of acid. Those flavors are hard to find even in the depth of summer. So it's time to manufacture that contrast without Mother Nature.

Here are some ideas to heighten tomato flavor.

If you have the time, channel the heat of the southern Mediterranean. Think slow and long . Place halved tomatoes on a parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and sugar (a bit more sugar than salt). Slowly roast in a 200- to 250-degree oven until shriveled -- anywhere from 2 to 8 hours, depending on the size of the tomato. Leave lots of room between the pieces so they can really dry out. Store them sealed in the refrigerator and use as you would a good tomato.

If you need great tomato taste ASAP, chop them into pieces and doctor them with a dash of fish sauce. Taste and add sugar, and maybe even a little vinegar to get the high notes. The fish sauce brings a meaty umph and the sugar and vinegar bring out the highs and lows.

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One more thing about tomatoes: One of the most haunting and powerful interviews we have done all year was with journalist Barry Estabrook, author of Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2010). Listen

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