Monday, August 22, 2011

Tomatoes in the Pasta Pantry

Tomatoes in the Pasta Pantry
Canned tomatoes are an essential pantry basic to be kept on hand at all times. Always choose canned tomatoes over unripe and out of season fresh tomatoes — even if it means changing your menu accordingly- There's no need to discard any leftover canned tomatoes not required in the recipe; canned tomatoes in their juice refrigerate and freeze well.
A quick and easy way to chop up whole canned tomatoes is to use kitchen scissors to chop them while they are still in the can. When making a slow-simmered tomato sauce, you can add the tomatoes whole from the can and break them up in the pan with a wooden spoon.
Tomato paste is best bought in a tube as it keeps well in the refrigerator and can be used a spoonful at a time. If you have opened a can, you can freeze any leftover tomato paste not required in the recipe. Simply freeze the remaining paste in the can and, when it has frozen solid, open the base of the can with a can opener and push out the block of paste. You can then cut it into slices, put it back in the freezer, and use each slice as needed.
Although jars of sun-dried tomatoes in oil are a handy pantry item, demi-sec sun-dried tomatoes have a superior
flavor. Seek them out in gourmet stores and from mail order sources. If buying loose, make sure they are still chewy and not too dry. To soak, place in a bowl with l tbsp red wine vinegar, pour over boiling water to cover, and leave to stand until tender and swollen.
Choose fresh tomatoes that are firm, red, and at their seasonal best. Plum tomatoes are the ideal variety for pasta sauces as their flesh is thick and meaty. When flavor is a priority, however, ripeness is more important than variety. When cooking with fresh tomatoes outside their peak season, it's well worth thinking ahead and buying the tomatoes a few days in advance of using. Set them on a tray by the kitchen window, making sure they are not touching, and leave for a few days to ripen. Never store tomatoes in the refrigerator; chilling gives the tomato flesh a mealy texture.
Taking the extra time and care to peel fresh tomatoes will make for a finished dish with a superior texture, flavor, and appearance. However, when time is at a premium, it is a step that can be skipped.

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