We are lucky in Australia to have tomatoes year round on our supermarket shelves
Yet, despite the convenience, winter tomatoes can lack that big flavour burst. So how do we coax out the best tomato flavour when they aren’t at their best?
Here are some tried and tested tricks to elevate out-of-season tomatoes into taste sensations.
Low and slow
Take unripe or out-of-season tomatoes, rich in water but lacking in sugar and acid, and treat them to an unhurried roasting. Cover them in olive oil, generously season with salt and pepper, and leave them to cook in a 200-degree oven for 60 to 90 minutes. This brings out a vivid flavour from traditionally tasteless tomatoes. Use in pastas and casseroles.
Grilling caramelises natural sugars, giving tomatoes a rich, smoky flavour. Sprinkle lightly with salt and a good olive oil. Place them under the grill until they’re browned on all sides, turning once.
Pureeing unripe tomatoes and straining the liquid produces a flavoursome tomato water that can add zest to your recipes or can be used as a light soup on its own.
Try Maggie Beer’s recipe for best results.
The big freeze
When fruit is frozen, the cell walls burst, leading to a juicier thawed product. Try freezing tomatoes, then thawing them and incorporating them into a sauce for added depth of flavour.
The pineapple juice trick
Adding a little pineapple juice to your raw tomatoes can mimic the acidity and sweetness of a ripe tomato. Keep a steady hand, though, adding the juice a tablespoon at a time to avoid an unwanted tropical fruit salad.
I want to try this just to see how it tastes. Pina Colada mixed with a salad maybe?
Balsamic glaze (or balsamic reduction) is superb over sliced tomatoes, transforming their flavour completely. Some like to use brown sugar, honey or maple syrup to temper the glaze’s tanginess.
The simple things
The creamy texture of mayonnaise complements tomatoes perfectly, adding a depth of richness that works especially well in sandwiches.
A surprisingly wonderful combination is tomato and watermelon, punctuated with fresh raspberries and ricotta. A homemade raspberry vinaigrette ties everything together, creating a vibrant salad.
The perfect match
Garlic enhances the flavour of tomatoes beautifully, whether in a fresh bruschetta or a homemade pizza. Many recipes also benefit from this pairing, including tomato sauces, savoury galettes, and tomato pestos.
And the judicious use of herbs such as basil, mint, coriander, chives, and even dill can bring a whole new dimension to your tomato dishes.
Your daily bread
If you have leftover ciabatta and some fresh tomatoes, a panzanella salad could be the perfect solution. This vibrant salad, complete with juicy croutons, is a wonderful way to use up any excess ingredients.
A simple but satisfying snack is crostini topped with goats’ cheese and tomatoes and finished with a generous sprinkle of chives. The strong flavour of the goat’s cheese will make up for any lack of flavour profile in your tomatoes.
So the next time your tomatoes are underperforming, sad, bad winter fruits, remember these tips and transform them from bland to beautiful.
Do you grow your own tomatoes? Do you have a favourite flavour combination? Why not share your tips in the comments section below?
Also read: One pot stuffed chicken with tomatoes