So goes the famous song once sung by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and of course Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.
But tomatoes, it never occurred to me that people might not know that there is a right and wrong way to cut tomatoes. Does it really matter? In reality I suppose not, after all sliced or diced, they are eaten anyway.
Tomatoes are fruits, which we tend to eat as vegetables.
Any thing that grows on a plant and is the means by which that plant gets its seeds out into the world is a fruit.”
That definition includes apples, tomatoes, and anything else that grows from a plant and contains seeds. Cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins, and avocados are all fruits too.
Rhubarb on the other hand is a vegetable, but nearly always used as a fruit, and was declared that it is a FRUIT by a New York Court in 1947 ! Seriously, changing nature by a Law!
The most important item when preparing tomatoes, is a knife or two. Not just any old knife, either a fine serrated knife, or I prefer a very sharp straight edge knife, and a sharp paring knife ( this is a small one), and also a grapefruit knife comes in handy.But they must be sharp, secondly a chopping board, of your choosing.
Generally speaking the core needs to be removed, this is where the tomato was attached to the plant and is thick. To do this, hold the tomato firmly with one hand. and insert the tip of the paring knife into the tomato and cut an angled circle around the core. and remove it.
Once the core is removed tomatoes can be quartered ( or smaller wedges), slices and stuffed.
Slices, now there is a point. Slices need to be cut from the stem end ( or the other way round) But never slicing down the side of the stem. Why? does it make a difference. Well aesthetically they just look better done the right way ( don’t you dare enter Master Chef and cut them the wrong way), but also the pulp tends to fall out and looking at the images, you will see that the ones cut correctly are much more symmetrical in appearance, hence in a Tomato and Mozzarella salad where appearance is everything, it is very important.
(the above show the stalk end of the tomatoes, tomatoes wrongly sliced and those correctly sliced)
If you do not like the skin ( stuffed tomatoes are so much better skinless), then it needs to be removed, and there is a simple way in which to do this. Prick the cored tomato in several places with a skewer and place in a cup or jug of boiling water for several minutes , remove from the water and with a sharp knife peel away the skin. Unfortunately, my mother had not learnt this. One day I called and she was unhappy as her tomato had fallen on the floor, whilst she attempted to peel it with a potato peeler ! Today on can actually buy a potato peeler look alike which does peel very finely, so it is also a solution.
And lastly, stuffed tomatoes. One does not have to be a good cook to make this very simple, but attractive starter. Removing the middle of the tomato is relatively simple, but especially so if you have a Grapefruit knife.
The Victorians ( in England at least) had a gadget for everything, a bread fork here, a grapefruit knife there, a silver container for crackers, or a wooden dish especially for stilton cheese. Knives and forks for fruit and others for cheese, a device for holding a leg of lamb for carving and another for Fois Gras. Cake servers and a cross between a server and fork for Angle food cake. Grape scissors, little fork for pickles ,a silver bread basket ladles both big and small, asparagus tongs ( as well as special plates), cake stands and fruit bowls, there was no end to the inventiveness of the Victorians!
Back to emptying the tomato, cut off the top and simply using a sharp knife ( grapefruit knife of even grapefruit spoons) gently carve out the innards and discard. Today with so many ready prepared fillings from Hummus to Egg Mayonnaise, just choose a filling you fancy and serve on a bed of salad.
Many supermarket tomatoes are rather bland and tasteless, many more are now selling “on the Vine”, but don’t be fooled into thinking that these have been grown outdoors and have that wonderful aroma, they don’t , but I have to say they are better than some. If you have the chance to go to a farm shop, when tomatoes are really in season, then do so, or grow your own. The trouble with that of course, it is feast or famine, as they all come at once !!