This Simple Restaurant Trick Is My Favorite Way to Enjoy Summer Tomatoes

updated Aug 14, 2020
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Credit: Amelia Rampe

The dog days of summer are upon us, which means tomatoes are currently at their most glorious. There are tons of ways tomatoes help us beat summer heat, from low-cook BLTs and caprese salads to cool tomato gazpacho. But this year, I was reminded of a little restaurant trick that’s so easy and hands-off yet so celebratory of tomatoes, it’s absolutely the first thing we should be doing with our tomato hauls. I’m talking about tomato water.

I re-learned this technique while testing recipes for Padma Lakshmi’s new food show Taste the Nation. One of them was Brandon Jew’s chop suey with celtuce and choy sum sprouts served in tomato water. I was shocked by the tomato water’s delicious tomato flavor, even as I tested the recipe with out-of-season tomatoes. My family enjoyed the leftovers for days, which gave me an idea: meal-prep tomato water on the weekend, then use it throughout the week for cool summer lunches or dinners.

Credit: Amelia Rampe

How to Make Tomato Water (and Turn It Into a Week of Easy Lunches)

Tomato water is made by pureeing whole tomatoes in a blender, transferring the tomato pulp to a fine mesh strainer, then allowing the water to slowly drain (when it’s done draining, take the pulp and make tomato jam). The process takes about two hours, but it’s mostly hands-off: you’ll just have to occasionally agitate the tomatoes to help the juices move through the strainer. I like to use that time to work on the rest of my meal prep for the week ahead.

There are so many ways to turn tomato water into a meal, but most of all I enjoy using it for cold noodle bowls. It takes about five minutes to cook noodles and another five to sauté the vegetables. So easy! I divide the noodles and veggies into individual containers and keep the tomato water separate. When I’m ready to eat, I simply pour the cold tomato water over top.

There are so many ways to riff on this meal. Try sweet corn, spinach, snap peas or bok choy in place of cucumber. Or, start with leftover cold grilled vegetables and pour the cold tomato water over top. Any way you enjoy it, it’s effortless, refreshing, and delicious, and the very best way to enjoy summer’s greatest gift.