How to Make the Most of Winter Tomatoes

Winter supermarket tomatoes can be less than inspiring and tend to leave us longing for those late-summer beauties. Here are four ways to transform lackluster tomatoes from mediocre to marvelous.

Bowl of tomatoes
: foto-peter

During the cold winter months, we all dream of those peak summer tomatoes that are so dangerously ripe and juicy that all you need is a napkin to catch their juices from running down your chin. You know the ones. Those colorful and meaty, slightly-tart-yet-sweet summer fruits straight from the farmer’s market. The ones you proudly display on the kitchen windowsill.  The perfect partners for leaves of sweet, fresh basil, flaky sea salt, and a drizzle of syrupy balsamic.

But alas, all that seems to be available in the supermarket this time of year are those sad, pithy, slightly hard impostor fruits. Every variety, from the small grape tomatoes to the sliceable red beefsteaks, is tempting to buy for that next BLAT or colorful lunchtime salad, but do you dare? Is there a way to make the most of those winter tomatoes that seem a little lackluster? Well, we took that dare and came up with a few ideas for how to transform those sad supermarket tomatoes from mediocre to marvelous. You can thank us later.

Tomato Crisps

A mason jar with tomato crisps spilling out
: Terri Lyons

Similar to oven-dried tomatoes, tomato crisps are baked longer, until completely crisp. They make a stunning addition to a charcuterie board or can be swapped in as a gluten-free crouton option for your favorite salad or tomato soup.

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

Halved slow roasted tomatoes on a piece of parchment with drops of oil and flakes of salt.
: Nataliia Sirobaba

The easiest way to rescue bland tomatoes and concentrate their flavor is to slow roast them. Simply halve the tomatoes, toss with some salt and freshly ground pepper, scatter on a baking sheet and cook at 250°F (120°C) until tender and jammy, but not dried out. This usually takes 3 to 4 hours. These slow-roasted tomatoes can be blended into pasta or pizza sauce, puréed into soup, piled atop a block of feta and baked, or used as a topping for baked chicken or fish.

Oven-Dried Tomatoes

A rimmed baking sheet filled with assorted oven-roasted tomatoes.
: Jessica Theroux

Don’t have the 3 or 4 hours needed to slow-roast your tomatoes? Oven dry slices of supermarket tomatoes, tossed with oil, salt, and a little sugar at 325°F (163°C) for an hour or so until tender and sticky. Swap these little darlings in anywhere you’d use sun-dried tomatoes, like this easy tapenade.

Tomato Powder

Tomato powder in a jar lying on its side and in a teaspoon beside the jar.
: Terri Lyons

To really take that tomato flavor to the next level, toss those tomato crisps from above into a spice grinder or food processor. The tomato powder can be mixed with water to create tomato paste, stirred into your favorite tomato or pasta sauce, used as a dry rub on meats, sprinkled into taco filling, or used to coat the rim of your Bloody Mary glass.

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Comments

  1. Hi, David and staff! This is a great article. If I have to buy (large) tomatoes in the winter, I let them sit on the counter for a few days (3-4), then slice them on a paper plate (I know…I know…) and let them rest for about 5 min. I then sprinkle them with flaky maldon sea salt and a small pinch of sugar and continue to let them rest for another 5 min. I do this also for the Cherub grape tomatoes that I cut in half to rest. I use the Cherub’s for salads nearly every day. I have found this method to bring out the tomato-y taste and make them taste a little fresher. It especially works on the Cherubs. If I can find them I also try to buy the “Uglly” tomatoes from Florida which have a better taste in winter months. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful informative article.

    1. What a great idea to add a touch of sugar to your sliced, fresh winter tomatoes. I do that occasionally when I am making a fresh tomato sauce, but I can see how that would help ‘doctor-up’ sliced tomatoes as well, brilliant. Great to know the ‘Uglly’ tomatoes from Florida are a go this time of year as well; sad name, but sometimes the strangest looking of produce can be quite a surprise. So happy you found our article informative, and let us know if you add any of these recipes to your winter tomato repertoire!

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