When working with fresh tomatoes, the most important quality to understand is the effect of temperature. Their flavor begins to deteriorate below about 54 degrees Farenheit. Thus, don't refrigerate your tomatoes. As harvest gets into full swing, it is tempting to extend the life of all those extra tomatoes by chilling them. Unfortunately, it renders them tasteless and makes the flesh mealy, as well. Use fresh tomatoes within three to four days, and if you can't, make a simple sauce or salsa that will hold in the refrigerator for a few extra days.
To cook with fresh tomatoes, the guidelines are simple. To retain that bright, fresh flavor, cook tomatoes quickly. Cooked longer than about thirty minutes, their flavor begins to change as sugars are released and liquid evaporates. The resulting taste can be insipid; to transform this quality, tomatoes must undergo lengthy, slow cooking, a technique that applies to just a few recipes such as a traditional ragu, which includes beef among its ingredients.
Copyright 1996 by Michele Anna Jordan, author of The Good Cook's Book of Tomatoes. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.
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