Cherry Tomatoes Are Meant To Be Peeled


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Heirloom Cherry Tomato Tart: Peeled Organic Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes, Organic Opal Basil, Parmigiano-Reggiano Chips, and Organic Ricotta on Toasted Plum-Streaked Brioche.

I haven’t had many tomatoes yet this season, and I think that plums are to blame. I’m tired of eating skins for now.

So, at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market on Wednesday, I bought a punnet of colorful heirloom cherry tomatoes more out of duty than craving. It wasn’t until I got home that I remembered the glistening rainbow of peeled cherry tomatoes in The French Laundry cookbook, so I gave it a shot.

The result: peeled cherry tomatoes are my newest form of tomato perfection. These luscious orbs melt away with the freshest tomato flavor and optimum tomato texture. It’s almost like spherified tomato sauce, akin to an El Bulli trick.

I usually shy away from dealing with the peeling-by-blanching method b/c it takes a lot of time-heat-dishes-water-ice (I’m talking about you, peaches), but since cherry tomatoes are so small, the blanching step is a snap. Not even an ice bath is needed.

You just bring enough lightly salted water to cover the tomatoes to a boil in a saucepan, gently add a few (rinsed, stemmed) cherry tomatoes at time, and after about 5 seconds, remove them with a slotted spoon onto a cutting board; if you notice that certain colors of tomatoes are splitting during poaching (like my yellow ones did), take them out even sooner b/c they probably have thinner skins. With a thin serrated knife, make the smallest possible incision into the skin near the stem end (purely for cosmetic reasons). Gently unwrap the tomato from its skin with your fingers. They will keep for several hours at room temp. I’m guessing that you could also just microwave some water to boiling and work with that.

It takes a little time, but each tomato is its own challenge to peel without nicking or squashing. You appreciate the colorful beauty of each one close up, and feel protective of their sensitive selves, and snack on them.

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This tart was inspired by the Salad of Petite Summer Tomatoes with Vine-Ripe Sorbet in The French Laundry Cookbook that featured the peeled tomatoes. I just made it bigger, more casual, and based on what I had on hand. Once the tomatoes are peeled, it’s practically a matter of assembly; and things stick nicely onto their moist surface. Incidentally, for lunches this summer, I’ve gotten into the habit of baking or toasting some sort of bread-y base (puff pastry, pizza dough, bread, etc), and loading it up with toppings once out of the oven. There’s more control, temperature contrast, and crunch that way, and the ind’l flavors keep more integrity (yes, sometimes desirable, sometimes not).

I spread ricotta on the toasted brioche b/c I love it with tomatoes and it’s a good moisture barrier btw the bread and tomatoes.

Instead of making their garlic tuile with a flour-based batter, I grated some parmigiano-reggiano cheese, formed it onto rounds on a silpat, baked them in a 350F oven until bubbly, broke them up, and scattered them over the tomatoes.

I added chopped opal basil b/c it’s pretty and I’d bought some at the market, too.

I used “plum-streaked brioche” b/c I had the leftover plum brioche tart that I froze as the base, but I couldn’t slice away every last fragment of the plums. Luckily, plums and tomatoes go very nicely with each other. There’s something kinetic there, esp w/ the slight sugar factor. Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course has a recipe for Sautee of Tomato and Plums if you want to try a dessert with the combination.

I didn’t make the TFL tomato sorbet, but I bet it’s fantastic the way it would melt over the tomatoes as a sauce and also as a textural counterpoint as a silky sorbet.

I enthusiastically bought a lot more heirloom cherry tomatoes this morning at the Saturday Santa Monica market (which is smaller than the Wednesday one, but is predominantly organic), and now I have the happy challenge of making a lot of dishes with them. Tonight, I think that the peeled cherry tomatoes will be great with pasta. I’ll probably bake the ricotta with eggs, flour, and parmigiano-reggiano cheese so that I can chop it into cubes to toss in; or maybe it’ll be turned into gnocchi. And add basil… and onions… and olives… and whatever else I can find…

4 Responses to “Cherry Tomatoes Are Meant To Be Peeled”

  1. fattypr Says:

    omg! this is such a cute and new idea for one of my fave things to eat. bravo! a colorful new take on bruschetta.

  2. Nina Says:

    Thanks :) Yeah, they are cute little baubles, aren’t they? I’m so hooked on them that the thought of eating cherry tomatoes with their peels makes me practically gag now.

  3. Anita Says:

    Oh, that’s gorgeous. And I am rather sick, in that I love peeling fruit, so this one’s right up my alley.

  4. Nina Says:

    Anita - Thanks :) And glad I’m not the only one…

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