The dead of winter is a rough time for fresh produce. And while most fruits and vegetables aren’t at their peak right now, cold-season tomatoes are just about the worst. As a rule, if a recipe calls for fresh tomatoes, I’m skipping it this time of year. But recently I was talking about that with Mark Ladner, the understated genius chef of New York City’s Del Posto, and he had some great tips for how to make winter tomatoes taste delicious, and also some brilliant, unexpected substitutions in a couple of classic fresh tomato dishes. Try these ideas, and we promise, you won’t miss summer nearly as much:
Dehydrated tomatoes: Ladner calls this process “raisin-ating,” and he loves to do it with cherry tomatoes. Just toss the whole cherry tomatoes in olive oil and set them in the oven at its lowest setting, until they’re wrinkled but still plump. This concentrates the tomatoes’ otherwise bland flavor, making them taste like they’ve ripened in the hot sun. “The flesh is tanned and dried,” says Ladner, “but they’re whole so you still get that juicy burst when you eat them.” Once dehydrated, the tomatoes keep well refrigerated in olive oil.
Canned tomatoes: “I think people underestimate the quality of really good canned or jarred tomatoes,” says Ladner. His highest praise goes to the piennolo tomatoes from Mount Vesuvius. “They’re so extraordinarily delicious, we use them year-round.”