Select Ripe, Fresh Tomatoes
Fresh tomatoes are essential to many dishes in Morocco, where home cooks go through large quantities while making soups, sauces, tagines and salads.
While some Moroccan recipes call for grating tomatoes, other recipes require that tomatoes be peeled and seeded before they’re chopped or diced. Working with tomatoes in this manner is very routine for a Moroccan, but if you’re a new cook (or new to preparing Moroccan cuisine), the process of peeling tomatoes can initially feel time-consuming and tedious.
First Remove the Tomato’s Core
Some chefs advise blanching scored tomatoes in boiling water for a minute to remove the skins (they should slip right off), but I’ve rarely seen Moroccans do that, and if using the tomatoes in a fresh salad, you might not like the appearance or texture of the blanched tomato afterward.
Instead, you can fairly quickly and easily peel tomatoes with a sharp paring knife or aserrated peeler similar to the one shown here. Fresh, ripe tomatoes with a bit of firmness will be easiest to peel.
Use a Paring Knife or Serrated Peeler
Starting at the top where the tomato was cored, peel the skin from the tomato. I find a serrated paring knife or serrated peeler works best, but a very sharp, regular paring knife will do the job, too.
Tomatoes with a bit of firmness are easiest to peel. Those that are ripe to the point of being very soft will be harder to peel, as the tomato will start to collapse in your hand as more and more of the skin comes off.
Seeding a Tomato – Cut the Tomato in Half
Some recipes call for seeding the tomatoes. To easily access the seeds, cut the peeled tomato in half crosswise. This will reveal the seeds in their cavities.
Seeding a Tomato – Rake Out the Seeds with Your Fingers
Hold a tomato half over a bowl, and scrape out the seeds with your fingers. If you like, you can strain the juice from the seeds to use in dishes which require cooking chopped, seeded tomatoes.
Dicing a Peeled Tomato – Flatten the Seeded Halves
If you want to dice the peeled, seeded tomato, you’ll get more uniform pieces if you flatten the tomato halves first. Simply place the tomato halves seeded side down on your cutting board, and then flatten the halves with your hand.
Dice or Chop the Tomatoes
If you’re comfortable working with a large chef’s knife, you can easily chop or dice two seeded tomato halves at a time. Otherwise, work with each half individually.
Cut narrow strips in one direction across the tomato half, and then bundle the strips with your hand and turn them so that you can cut across their ends. The more narrow the strips you cut, the more fine or petite your diced pieces of tomato will be.
Diced Tomatoes in Moroccan Chopped Salads
Coarsely Chopped Tomatoes in Moroccan Cooked Salads
You don’t always have to carefully dice peeled tomatoes into fine, uniform pieces; with cooked salads and other dishes, a coarse chopping is perfectly acceptable.
Here you can see coarsely chopped tomatoes alongside other ingredients which will be cooked together to make the dip-like salad, Taktouka. Other examples of cooked salads with tomatoes are eggplant Zaalouk and Cooked Zucchini Salad.