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Old 01-11-2007, 09:07 AM   #1
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How to use different kinds of tomatoes?

I'm a bit confused about all the different kinds of tomatoes that are available. I follow my recipes with whatever kind they call for like diced, stewed, crushed, whole peeled, etc.
Is there a certain formula or rule in cooking different types of dishes as to why you would use a certain kind of tomato? Why use paste in one recipe and crushed in another, etc.

Sher

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Old 01-11-2007, 09:14 AM   #2
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The "Reader's Digest Version"...it has to do with texture/taste/flavor..of the particular dish
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Old 01-11-2007, 09:28 AM   #3
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Well ... they're interchangeable up to a point. The "big pieces / small pieces" issue might just be a matter of personal preference. However, what percentage of the tomatoes you're using is water might very much affect a recipe (paste versus crushed, for instance, the former having much less water for X amount of tomato than the latter). In recipes where you'd be reducing the water content for a lengthy period of time it might not matter (like a spaghetti sauce, let's say) but for other recipes where you'd want to minimize the cooking time for the sake of other ingredients, but still don't want a watery result, you'd need to choose your tomato products with care.

(Also your tomato varieties if you're using fresh tomatoes: I know when I made a couple of batches of tomato salsa this last summer what a difference the roma tomatoes made compared with the "regular" eating tomatoes I'd used in the first batch: I obtained a much crisper, less watery salsa the second time, thanks to roma being a less watery tomato, i.e., perfect for this application!)
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Old 01-11-2007, 11:04 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sherin65
I'm a bit confused about all the different kinds of tomatoes that are available. I follow my recipes with whatever kind they call for like diced, stewed, crushed, whole peeled, etc.
Is there a certain formula or rule in cooking different types of dishes as to why you would use a certain kind of tomato? Why use paste in one recipe and crushed in another, etc.

Sher
I don't know about rules but I only buy tomato paste and whole peeled tomatoes. I can dice or crush them myself if need be but its tough to put them back together. This also makes it easy to control the amount of liquid that Ayrton was talking about. By the way, the juice in a 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes is just the right amount for a small bloody mary.
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Old 01-11-2007, 11:23 AM   #5
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ideally, canned tomatoes are done up at the peak of ripeness. A good canned tomato will taste good from the can. Look for those without sugar but packed with basil for natural sweetness.

diced, crushed etc are convenience items, probably many were less than perfect on the vine or got dinged in harvest so they end up more processed. However, the taste should still be fine. Puree is very smooth and very processed. Again, a time saver unless you want to evaporate the tomato pulp yourself. Paste, very concentrated. A great thickener.

So use what is convenient. I like to crush or food mill my own from whole canned tomato. But I also keep several cans of diced to have on hand to throw into a sauce or chili. One can also make a nice quick sauce with diced and some simple seafood and herbs.

San Marzano from Italy are very sweet and lovely tomatoes. SMoked or fire roasted tomates give a great taste to bbq beans and chilis.

When using fresh tomatoes: Romas are dense and cook well. Even this time of year, roasting them with basil and garlic gives you a fine tasty unexpected side dish. Love them!

Grape tomatoes often called snacking tomatoes are sweet and wonderful in salads or used in dips of whole for hors d'ouvres. Vine tomatoes are fine for sandwiches or baked. Come summer: beefsteaks and heirloom varieties are to die for! Writing this I want a tomato sandwich so badly...warm crusty bread, brie and tomato! (or white bread mayo and tomato!)
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Old 01-11-2007, 02:20 PM   #6
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For my basic Tomato Sauce: I use one can Tomato Sauce and l can Crushed Tomatoes.
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Old 01-13-2007, 03:04 PM   #7
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It sounds like you are asking about different types of canned tomato products. As others have said it's a matter of taste, texture and convenience. Here is the 25-cent tour.

Whole Peeled Tomatoes are the least cooked and processed, and many believe have a "fresher" taste. You can use them like fresh tomatoes to dice, crush, puree, etc. when fresh tomatoes are out of season.

Diced Tomatoes are whole peeled tomatoes that have been diced and generally contain seeds.

Tomato Sauce is whole peeled tomatoes which have been run through a seive to remove the seeds, more watery than tomato puree, and is also generally seasoned with onions, and/or herbs.

Tomato Puree is like tomato sauce, but is not seasoned and is cooked a little more to thicken it - sometimes the tomatoes are run through a press to remove some of the liquid before seiving and the final cooking.

Crushed Tomatoes are whole peeled tomatoes that are simply crushed - the texture is not as uniform as diced tomatoes.

Stewed Tomatoes are basically crushed tomatoes that have been seasoned with onion, celery and green bell pepper.

Tomato Paste is the most processed and undergoes the most dramatic flavor changes. Generally, it is tomato puree which is cooked for a long time to reduce it down to about 1/4 of it's original volume. This process gives it the most pronounced cooked flavor - and greatly concentrates the flavor. It is used to add a concentrated tomato flavor to a dish with a minimal addition of liquid.

Types of Tomatoes used for canning vary - but here in the US generally are the ordinary common garden varity round "slicing" types unless otherwise specified on the label. The "sauce" tomatoes are the pear shaped Romas, aka Italian plum, etc. These are meatier, sweeter, lower in acid and less watery. Of course, they usually cost a little more. My favorite is "San Marsano" imported from Italy - WOW what a flavor!- but they cost 3-5 times as much as domestic brands.
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Old 01-13-2007, 04:07 PM   #8
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It really depends on the recipe I am using. For chili I use whole canned tomatoes that I then crush by hand because I like a chunky chili. For tomatoe sauce (for pasta), I use one can of crushed tomatoes with an equal amount of water, and then one can of tomatoe paste. I dont care for canned diced tomatoe due to the texture, nor do I care for a can of tomatoe sauce.
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Old 01-13-2007, 05:38 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sherin65
I'm a bit confused about all the different kinds of tomatoes that are available. I follow my recipes with whatever kind they call for like diced, stewed, crushed, whole peeled, etc.
Is there a certain formula or rule in cooking different types of dishes as to why you would use a certain kind of tomato? Why use paste in one recipe and crushed in another, etc.

Sher
As we have come to expect - Michael has given us yet another excellent lesson in recognising different tomato products.Thanks, Michael; I, for one, really appreciate your posts!

Now as for your question - the only sure way to tell the difference is to TRY them. There's no definitive rule for using a particular variant of tomato, but as it was very clearly pointed out, colour/texture/presentation/flavour are important. If you have time (and if you're willing to experiment), you could make something very simple, like a Neapolitan Tomato Sauce for pasta. Make a little with fresh tomato, a little with canned tomato, a little with crushed tomato, a little with diced tomato, and a little with stewed tomato. If you don't have the time or the disposition to do that ( and I know not everyone is interested in doing so), simply make your next (favourite) tomato sauce with one variety, and go through the varieties every time you make the sauce. Get yourself a little notebook and write down what you think. A little painstaking, yes; but it will help you to establish your taste "memory".
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