Frozen tomatoes great for quick, easy stewed dishes

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Chicken in tomato sauce, front, and honey marinated cherry tomatoes

As prices continue to rise, buying in-season vegetables and freezing them for later use can help save money. Cooking expert Miyuki Shimamoto suggests putting tomatoes in the freezer to create delicious dishes further down the road. Our family always need tomatoes in the house. When my now 12-year-old son was very young and required a lot of care, I didn’t have sufficient time to cook after getting home from work. I often served fried chicken or hamburger steaks from a convenience store at dinner time.

I often served tomatoes along with these foods, because they’re delicious when eaten raw and helped ensure that my son had good nutritional balance. Perhaps because of that, he grew up to be a great tomato lover.

During this year’s summer vacation, he always asked me to put cherry tomatoes in his lunch box for after-school lessons.

Consequently, our refrigerator is full of tomatoes, year-round. However, I don’t buy them so much during the winter months because that’s when they go up in price. Fuel for greenhouse cultivation is getting more expensive, too, and it may be that I’m even more hesitant to buy tomatoes this winter.

Having said that, relatively inexpensive in-season tomatoes are currently available. But will they last through the winter if I freeze them now? According to Shimamoto, tomatoes are good for about three months if frozen whole. “If you freeze them at the end of summer, you can use them for stews and other dishes around early winter,” she said.

Shimamoto recommends wrapping tomatoes in plastic wrap before freezing, and, in the case of cherry tomatoes, removing the stems.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Frozen whole tomatoes, left, and frozen cherry tomatoes

“Tomatoes change in texture when frozen, but frozen tomatoes are suitable for cooking because their umami and sweetness levels increase,” she said.

Chicken in tomato sauce is a filling dish that requires only simply seasoning thanks to the frozen tomatoes’ umami. It’s a perfect dish for dinner. Shimamoto recommends letting frozen tomatoes sit at room temperature for five to 10 minutes before cutting.

Frozen tomatoes can be easily peeled by soaking them in water. The tomatoes take on flavors easily, as the freezing process breaks down their cellular structure.

Honey-marinated cherry tomatoes is a quick-to-make dish. For two servings, peel 10 to 12 frozen cherry tomatoes and marinate them in a bowl with one tablespoon of vinegar and ½ a tablespoon of honey. Let them sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

The tomatoes have a natural sweetness and melt inside your mouth. When I served marinated tomatoes with sauteed pork for dinner, my son liked the tomatoes more than the meat, saying, “This is really delicious.” It looks like this recipe will become a staple dish in our home.

Frozen whole tomatoes

Wash and pat-dry the tomatoes with the stem still attached, then cover them with plastic wrap, put them in a freezer bag and freeze.

Frozen cherry tomatoes

Wash and pat-dry the cherry tomatoes, then cut off their stems, put them in a freezer bag and freeze.

Chicken in tomato sauce

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 1 chicken thigh
  • 1 frozen whole tomato
  • ½ garlic clove (thinly sliced)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • A few basil leaves
  • Directions:

1. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and sprinkle with single pinches of salt and pepper. Leave frozen tomato at room temperature for five to 10 minutes before cutting into chunks.

2. Heat olive oil and garlic in a pan. Once fragrant, add chicken with skin side up and cook both sides until golden brown. Add frozen tomato and one tablespoon of sake, cover, and steam for about five minutes.

3. Add two teaspoons of soy sauce and bring to a simmer. Plate the chicken in tomato sauce and sprinkle with torn basil leaves.