What to CookSummer

A Good Reason to Peel Your Tomatoes—& Turn Them into Salt

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Every other Sunday, we'll focus on one overlooked kitchen scrap and show you how to turn what would otherwise be trash into a dish to treasure.

Today: Pink salt doesn't have to come from the Himalayas.

Peeling a Tomato

Even if you’re not offended by tomato skins, there are places where they just aren’t as welcome—like in sauces, soups, and cakes (okay, really the tomatoes are just a cake garnish). And after taking the time to blanch and peel tomatoes for a recipe, have you ever stopped and thought: "Now what can I do with this pile of tomato skins?" No? Me either. But luckily for us, Gabrielle Hamilton did. 

In her cookbook, Prune, she has an entire chapter devoted to “Garbage" that is filled with clever ways to repurpose scraps. Some you’ll want to adopt immediately (like boiling cauliflower hearts and zucchini stems until tender, then serving them drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with flaky salt), while others might have your dinner party guests scratching their heads (like using leek roots as spiky, otherworldly tea light holders). Hamilton's use for tomato skins is somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.

Tomato Skin Salt

Tomato skins might not seem worthy of saving, but it turns out they are. Hamilton dries them low and slow in the oven so that they retain their color, and then she turns them into powder. While I understand that powders can have their place in a restaurant, I’m skeptical of using them in the home kitchen—I see them as one small step from claiming foams constitute a meal. But take that basic method and slightly tweak and simplify it to make tomato skin salt...well, now we're talking. 

Full disclosure: I have an entire shelf devoted to different salts in my kitchen. But, even if you don’t have a double digit-sized collection of salt, I would still argue that you should make this: It’s the perfect summertime salt. The tomato flavor is definitely there (and yes, it does make fresh tomatoes taste even more tomato-y), but don’t let that constrain you when you're thinking about how to use it. I’ve been enjoying it sprinkled over everything from eggs to corn on the cob. Next, I'm planning to use it to rim glasses for Bloody Marys. I’m certain you’ll admire its pretty pinkish-red color anytime you set out a little cellar of salt—like to accompany fresh radishes with butter. 

Tomato Skin Salt

Since you are eating the skin, this is absolutely one of those times you’ll want to be buying organic produce. Or, if you're at your local farmers market, you can talk to farmers about their growing practices, which might be equivalent to organic even if the farm is not certified as such.

Tomato Skin Salt 

Makes pretty, pinkish-red salt

Tomato skins
Coarse salt (in equal amount to tomato skins by weight)

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Know of a great recipe in the Food52 archives that uses scraps (anything from commonly discarded produce parts to stale bread to bones and more)? Tell me about it in the comments!

First photo by James Ransom; all other photos by Mark Weinberg

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Tags: Sustainability, Cooking with Scraps, DIY Food