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The best way to store tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes come in all shapes, sizes and

Heirloom tomatoes come in all shapes, sizes and colors, Aug. 1, 2015 Credit: Newsday/ Erica Marcus

How should I store tomatoes?

Tomato season is here. For years I've been telling people not to store tomatoes in the refrigerator, but I recently came across an article on the reliable website Serious Eats that called that into question.

Culinary director Daniel Gritzer and J. Kenji López-Alt, who runs the site's food lab, did an exhaustive battery of tests and concluded that if you are buying ripe tomatoes and do not have access to a cold cellar or wine fridge that maintains a temperature of around 60 degrees, you may be better off storing tomatoes in the refrigerator than on the counter. "Simply put," Gritzer writes, "really good, ripe tomatoes tend to do well in the refrigerator, while bad tomatoes remain bad or get worse in the fridge: underripe tomatoes continue to be underripe and mealy tomatoes become mealier." The rule "never refrigerate tomatoes" at the very least "exaggerates the harm that a refrigerator does to ripe tomatoes while not considering the sometimes greater harm that can befall that same tomato if left at room temperature."

If you do refrigerate tomatoes, let them come to room temperature before eating them. And always store a cut tomato in the fridge.

For me, the storage issue is almost academic, since I go through tomatoes at a pretty good clip this time of year. I've been making tomato sandwiches at the office almost every day and, if your office has a toaster, I suggest you do the same.

Take good, American-style closegrained white sandwich bread, such as Arnold Brick Oven or Pepperidge Farm, and toast it lightly. Spread two slices thinly with real mayonnaise. Using a serrated knife, cut the tomato as thin as you can and pile half of it on a slice of bread. Sprinkle with salt and then pile on the rest of the tomato. Use more salt, and then top with the second slice of bread. (Thinly slicing the tomato is key here so you can easily bite through the sandwich without taking half of the tomatoes with you.)

Moving in a more Italian direction, you could toast thick slices of rustic bread and immediately rub them with a cut clove of garlic. Drizzle a little good olive oil on top, then lay on chopped tomatoes, some salt and more olive oil. Got some fresh basil or thyme around? Bring it on. You have just made bruschetta, pronounced brew-sket-ta.

Or, cut your rustic bread into cubes and toast them. Put them in a bowl with chopped tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper, some herbs, some chopped onion; let it sit for a while so the bread can soak up some of the juice and you've got panzanella.

Feeling Spanish? Toast that country-style bread and rub one side of it with a cut tomato until the bread is impregnated with juice. Add a splash of good olive oil and some coarse salt and pretend you're soaking up the sun in Catalonia: You've made pan con tomate.

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