Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we’re sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: There is hope for your bruised tomatoes — they just need a little TLC.
So you went to the market and bought all the beefsteak tomatoes that your arms could hold because they were just so fat and so beautiful. You used a handful to make some BLTs, but now the rest of them have started to bruise, no longer firm enough for sandwich-ready slices.
In the dead of winter, we dream of having too many tomatoes — but in the summer, it can be a serious problem. Luckily, there are many ways to use summer’s red beauties even when they’ve lost their firmness and are too soft to slice into a salad.
More: Get to know your ingredients. Here’s how to crush tomatoes by hand.
First, however, you need to make sure your tomatoes are bruised, and not rotten: When they go bad, tomatoes start leaking liquid — at this point, it’s time to hurry up and put them to use. If their skins develop black spots that are obviously not dirt or blemishes, your tomatoes have begun to mold and it’s time to chuck them.
Now that you’re done inspecting, we’ve got some ideas to get your creative (tomato) juices flowing. Here are our favorite ways to salvage bruised tomatoes:
1. Tomato Sauce
Boil the tomatoes for a minute, peel them (here’s how), chop them, then let them simmer into a tomato sauce, and add whatever seasonings you like. Go with garlic, anchovies, capers, and crushed red pepper for Pasta Puttanesca, or butter and onion for Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce. Some other ideas: Make marinara sauce to top any homemade pizza or poach some eggs in a spicy, pungent tomato sauce and call it shakshuka.
More: Here’s how to use up a big batch of tomato sauce in a week’s worth of dinners.
2. Tomato Vinaigrette
Chop up bruised tomatoes, roast or sauté them over high heat, then toss them in with some olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar, and maybe a little Dijon. Whisk it all together, and you have a vinaigrette that will keep in the fridge for up to a week. Mix it into a salad or drizzle it over a protein — like this grilled flank steak.
3. Tomato Jam
Roast or simmer your tomatoes with sugar, salt, lemon juice, and whatever aromatics or spices you like — maybe cinnamon, fennel seeds, and dried red chiles, or onion, vinegar, cumin, and coriander — until they are jelled. Then spread liberally on any and all bread you can find.
Roast chopped tomatoes (or sliced cherry tomatoes) in the oven under they are caramelized. Then, melt some cheese on crostini (or keep it plain), throw on your tomatoes, season, and you have a delicious hors d’oeuvre to serve to all your summertime guests. If you want a larger-scale version of bruschetta, make a tomato galette. Slice the tomatoes in half, bake them low and slow, arrange them in a puff pastry and bake it at high heat with any other toppings you like — we recommend mozzarella — until the pastry is golden.
5. Tomato Soup
You don’t need a recipe for this classic. Sauté alliums — onions, garlic, shallots, what have you — in olive oil, then add your tomatoes and your preferred seasonings. Add a little water or broth, let it simmer until it’s as thick as you want it to be, and blend. You can always add cream, too. Then dip your grilled cheese right in.
Blend your tomatoes together with alliums, herbs, spice, heat, and acid, and you have salsa, as smooth or as chunky as you like it.
If a hot soup feels inconceivable in the summer, make a cold one instead. Roughly chop the tomatoes, garlic, onion, bread, and any vegetables you have available — like zucchini, cucumbers, or bell peppers (fruit works too!). Throw in some salt, squeeze a little lemon, and let it all sit for a bit. Once the bread has softened, blend everything together, and bam: You’re in Spain.
8. Pan con Tomate
Rub your tomatoes all over some toasted bread, drizzle the bread with oil, sprinkle with salt, and yes: You’re still in Spain.
9. Bloody Mary
Make a mix — like this one, with basil — by simmering your chopped tomatoes with salt, pepper, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, water, and the vegetables and herbs of your choosing until they are completely tender. Blend, then add in your horseradish, Worcestershire, celery salt, hot sauce, lemon, and vodka, and stir — just don’t forget the celery stalk. You can also make cocktail sauce from scratch using a pretty similar process.
10. Tomato Frittata
As a rule of thumb, when all else fails, throw your bruised produce into a frittata. Sauté your tomatoes briefly with any other vegetables you have, pour in beaten, seasoned eggs over them, stir until set, and then throw in the oven to finish. You just can’t go wrong.
What are your favorite ways to use overripe tomatoes? Tell us in the comments!