I love finding tricks to make my life a little easier in the kitchen. I'm always interested in learning methods that help with speed, ease or cleanup. Here are some of my favorite ideas for cooking with tomatoes:

1. When a recipe calls for peeling fresh tomatoes, I like to cut down on time and dishwashing by using the boiling-water tap on my kitchen sink. Cut a small X in the bottom of each tomato (as you normally would). Fill a bowl with the boiling hot water from the tap and drop in the tomatoes. Let the tomatoes stand for about 30 seconds or until their skins begin to split. Remove and rinse them under cold tap water. At this point the tomato skins can be easily peeled. This eliminates the need to wait for your water to boil and cuts down the washing to just one dish (instead of two).
2. When a recipe calls for chopping whole canned tomatoes, I use scissors to avoid a mess on my counter or cutting board. Just open the can and grab your kitchen scissors. Cut them into pieces right in the can.
3. For a rich but super-quick tomato sauce, just put fresh ripe tomatoes, a few sun-dried tomatoes and a little tomato paste in the blender. Add a touch of olive oil so the ingredients blend easily, and season the mix with salt and pepper. This easy sauce tastes as rich as a long-simmered one, thanks to the tomato paste and the sun-dried tomatoes. Here's the recipe:

Penne with Quick Three-Tomato Sauce
4 servings

1 pound penne rigate
2 large vine-ripe tomatoes (10 ounces), cut into 1 inch dice
4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 large basil leaves
1 garlic clove
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the penne until al dente.
2. Meanwhile, in a blender combine the vine-ripe tomatoes with the sun-dried tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, garlic and olive oil. Puree until smooth and season with salt and pepper. Pour the tomato sauce into the bottom of a large serving bowl.
3. Drain the pasta and pour into the bowl with the sauce. Toss well to coat the pasta and serve.