I remember the first time I bit into a cherry tomato. I was at a Sizzler. I was seven. A boy was present. I was talking a lot, as I am wont to do, when I casually popped the mini ‘mato in my mouth. My teeth pierced the skin, it exploded with much force, and seeds and tomato gel sprayed forth. I was so embarrassed that I quit talking.
Take them all off. Photos by Claire Lower.
I also remember the first time I ate a peeled cherry tomato. It was served to me at this restaurant. I was 28. Men were present. I was still talking a lot. I popped the shiny little orb in my mouth. There was no explosion, only the juiciest, silkiest, sweetest and most tomato-y tomato I had ever tasted. It was so good that I quit talking.
As luck would have it, a friend had just dropped these off.
I have been peeling cherry tomatoes with some enthusiasm ever since. You see, besides rendering the little tomatoes into veritable mouth explosives, the skins don’t really add anything to the tomato-eating experience. They’re tough and relatively flavourless, and removing them gives whatever dressing you’re using something to stick to.
They’re also very easy, and somewhat soothing, to peel. Just cut little x’s in their bottoms, using very little pressure and a very sharp knife, taking care to not cut too far into the flesh.
I went too deep on some of these.
Next, plunge the tomatoes into boiling water for about seven to 10 seconds, until you see their skins start to peel back. Remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon, then immediately plunge them into an ice bath.
Gently peel away the skins, and save them to flavour your stock or make tomato salt.
Once the little love apples are undressed, it’s time to get dressed in some dressing. Chef John has a pretty good recipe for this, but I like to play around with various vinegars, herbs and other seasonings. This is the basic template I use:
- 2 tablespoons of really good olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of vinegar
- A pinch of salt
- A couple of grinds of fresh pepper
- Other stuff to taste
I recognise that this sort of vagueness may cause anxiety in dedicated recipe-followers, but embrace the freedom herein. When I first made this salad, I chopped a basil leaf and added a pinch of garlic powder. Last night I added a drizzle of garlic honey. Honestly, oil and vinegar with a little bit of salt is plenty, as tomatoes are pretty perfect as-is. (Well, once you’ve skinned them. That skin is far from perfect.)
Anyway, once you’ve whipped up your dressing – in a mason jar, perhaps? – drizzle it over the peeled tomatoes, cover them with plastic wrap, and set in the bowl in the fridge for half an hour or so, giving them a little swirl at least once during chilling.
Scoop them out of their oil bath, sprinkle them with a little flaky salt, and enjoy the way they melt, rather than violently explode, in your mouth, and how your vinaigrette adheres to the tomato flesh, rather than sliding off its slick skin. (I also think peeled tomatoes would work exceedingly well in these boozy Bloody Mary bombs, but that’s another experiment for another day.)