December 2, 2021

Pioneer Spirit Market

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How You Dice It (with Tomatoes)

tomatoesWith tomatoes, how you dice it does make a difference when attempting to follow a recipe that has the finished product look just as good as if someone like the infamous Martha Stewart did it herself.

There is a list of dos and don’t dos when dicing down tomatoes.  This includes how to hold the knife as you handle that tomato without disastrous results and how you handle the tomato you’re holding. Ideally, you want a firm tomato that’s not too ripe to work with.

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How you dice it (with tomatoes)Brief Tomato History Lesson

The tomato is one of the most favored used for many recipes.  This wasn’t the case during the earliest days of Colonial America as it was believed eating a tomato would turn a person’s blood into acid.  Because of this, the fear of eating tomatoes had them merely grow as decorative fruit instead of edible ones.  It would be many years during the timeline of America’s earliest batch of settlers before they’d finally realize something the French and Spaniards knew all along!  Once people finally realized tomatoes are perfectly safe for eating, they finally started to come around.

Nowadays, the tomato is not only among the most popular ingredients found in cuisine around the world but has an impressive variety of colors, shapes, and sizes to enjoy. One of the favorite methods tomato fans seem to enjoy is having it diced down and put into favorites such as casseroles, salads, and stews.

Dice It Down

While the most talented among the culinary trade seems to make it look easy when cutting, slicing, and dicing something as delicate as a tomato, it’s so difficult to do!  When it comes down to dicing down this juicy vegetable without making the surface look like a soupy mess, it’s actually in the knife handling and how you hold the tomato.

Safety First

It is highly advised to first rinse and gently pats dry the tomato you’re working with. If there’s a produce sticker on the tomato, remove it. This is to be sure what you’re working with is free of anything that may have come into contact with the tomato before it’s time to work with it.

Before proceeding, make sure you have a good, sharp knife to work with.  A small, serrated kitchen knife is best to work with due to how fragile the tomato is.  A straight edge knife will do too, but it has to be sharp enough to be through the tomato with ease.  The less pressure you put on the tomato the better.  This will help reduce mess, as well as lower the possibility of inflicting personal injury.

As scary as a sharp knife may seem to be, it’s even worse when a dull blade is a reason why you injured yourself!  A dull knife is harder to work with as they require extra pressure.  Most of the blade-related accidents occurring in the kitchen are connected to dull knives, especially when held by someone who has inadequate knife-handling skills.

How You Cut It

Step for step, after that tomato, is washed and patted dry, start slicing the tomato down first.  The best bet is to hold the top of the tomato on its side and slice as evenly as possible as you work from the now exposed bottom part of the tomato towards your hand.  When doing this, be gentle so that the tomato doesn’t get mashed up, especially if it’s a really ripe one.

Make sure when you’re holding the tomato that your fingers and thumb are well protected. The pros tend to tuck their thumb inward and have the tips of their fingers gently holding the tomato in place.  If this seems difficult for you to do, there are now protective gloves you can wear as a means to prevent injury.  In fact, it’s now becoming a food and safety standard among a growing number of establishments that work with food for kitchen staff to wear cut gloves.  In addition to dull knives being the culprit to kitchen-related injuries, so is the improper handling of food as too many expose the thumb and fingers while cutting.  I actually recommend people consider having a set of cut gloves at home, especially if you’re not as comfortable with sharp kitchen tools as you’d like to be.

And this does boil down to how you handle the knife.  The pros make it look easy because they have the knife do all the work for them. This is accomplished by having the front of the knife stay on or as close to the cutting surface as possible, then having the knife slice down in a pattern similar to bringing an arm down to press garlic.  As you do this, have the knife slide slightly forward, which is a technique top chefs all over the world have been trained to do.

When your tomato is sliced as far down as you can possibly go towards its top, set aside whatever you don’t intend to use and work with your newly sliced tomatoes so you can take it a step further to cut them down to strips. It is recommended you do this procedure one tomato slice a time before angling the strips to dice them down into evenly sized cubes. By using this method, you are again having the knife do the work for you. How you cut and dice your food, whether it be a tomato or another fruit or vegetable, the quality of your finished product can become compromised if there isn’t enough care going into what you’re doing.

Dicey Tomato!

Okay, since this article has been categorized into the Recipe Matters, I guess I should do my part here and include a recipe aside from how to work with knives and tomatoes.  So, here’s a nice little treat you can do for yourself those beautifully diced tomatoes;

Heavenly Tomato Topper
Diced Tomato (you did a good job on it, right?)
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Dash Onion Salt
Dash Basil
Shredded Parmesan or Ricotta Cheese
Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Put these ingredients together and gently toss around until thoroughly mixed.  This is fabulous on a lightly toasted baguette or slice of Italian loaf!  (I really love it with tossed greens as there’s no need to add extra dressing.)

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