The simplest tomato sauce is a raw or barely cooked concassée. Concasser means “to crush, break, or grind” and, when applied to cooking, implies that the original texture of the food is still somewhat intact.
When ripe end-of-summer tomatoes are in season, the best way to prepare them and keep all their bright, natural flavor intact is to prepare a raw concassée. Raw tomato concassée can be served as a cold sauce for meats and fish or gently warmed and served with hot foods. Because raw tomato concassée is not strained, the tomatoes must be peeled and seeded before they are chopped. The best way to peel tomatoes is to plunge them in boiling water for 10 or 15 seconds (the exact amount of time depends on how ripe they are; the riper they are, the shorter the time) or, if only one or two tomatoes are involved, rotate them over a gas flame with a fork. Plunge the tomatoes immediately into cold water to prevent the pulp from cooking, and then pull off the peel with your fingers.
To seed tomatoes, cut them in half crosswise and squeeze the seeds from each half. Chop the tomatoes coarsely with a chef’s knife. When raw tomato concassée is made with ripe summer tomatoes, any additional flavoring other than salt and pepper may seem superfluous, but a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley or basil and a dribble of extra-virgin olive oil will not do any harm.
When preparing tomato concassée with less-than-perfect tomatoes, several methods can be used to reduce the water content and concentrate the tomatoes’ flavor. Coarse salt can be used to eliminate excess liquid. After peeling the tomatoes, cut them into wedges as for a salad. Pull the seeds from each of the wedges with the tip of a finger. Toss the wedges with salt and place them in a colander set over a bowl to catch any liquid they release. Let the tomatoes sit for 30 minutes, tossing them every 10 minutes. After they have drained, chop them to the desired texture.
Copyright © 2017 by James Peterson. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.