Cooking helps to bring out the flavor of tomatoes that are less than perfect and extends the tomato season. In the winter, when tomatoes are out of season, do not make recipes that rely on fresh tomatoes. Despite the efforts of chemists to bring us ripe tomatoes year round, the winter ones, though they may be pretty and round and unblemished, are overpriced and disappointing in flavor. The only possible exception is the grape tomato, a relatively new cultivar that is very sweet and tasty.
A perfectly ripe tomato needs no more enhancement than a bit of salt. Sadly, though, the season for ripe tomatoes is a brief one. And when they are in season, there are often so many around that you can't eat them fast enough.
Looks may be deceiving with tomatoes. A uniform bright red color and globe shape does not always signify the best-tasting tomato. The most delicious tomatoes I have eaten are heirloom varieties that were streaked with green or yellow and unevenly shaped. In Liguria recently, I had a variety called Cuore di Bue ("beef heart") that was extraordinary. I hope these catch on and are as good in the United States as they were in Italy. Good tomatoes should be heavy for their size and free of soft spots.
From "1,000 Italian Recipes." Copyright 2004 by Michele Scicolone. Used with permission of the publisher, Wiley Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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