Food & Drink

Grilled Tomatoes with a French Kiss

Herbs and sea salt adorn Tomatoes Provençales

photo: Francis Hammond


Southerners aren’t the only group who are positively passionate about fresh summer tomatoes. In France, herb-seasoned Tomatoes Provençales make the perfect snack or first course. In the new cookbook, French Grill, author Susan Herrmann Loomis ditches the oven to make this recipe friendly for backyard barbecue warriors. Use your favorite variety of tomato, plus fresh herbs, and serve warm or at room temperature.


Ingredients

    • 6 large tomatoes cored, cut in half horizontally, seeds removed

    • 2 generous tsp. fine sea salt

    • 2 large cloves garlic, minced

    • 1½ cups fresh basil leaves

    • 2 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves

    • ¼ cup olive oil

    • ⅔ cup fresh bread crumbs

    • Freshly ground black pepper


Preparation

  1. Sprinkle the tomatoes evenly with salt. Place them, cut side down, on a wire rack over a baking pan or nonreactive surface, and let the tomatoes drain for 30 minutes.

  2. Mince together the garlic, basil, and thyme. Place the mixture in a small bowl and whisk in the oil, then the bread crumbs, to make a thick paste.

  3. Preheat all three burners of a gas grill, or build a medium-size fire in the barbecue. When the coals are red and dusted with ash, spread them in a tight, single layer, leaving a perimeter of grill with no coals under it; they need to emit concentrated heat. Set the grill over the coals and set the grill pan on top.

  4. Turn the tomatoes cut side up. Spread each tomato with the herb mixture, letting some fall into the cavities left by the seeds and spreading it evenly over the cut side. You’ll have plenty; use it all.

  5. When the grill is hot, set the tomatoes on it, cover the grill, and cook until the tomatoes are bubbling on top and the bread crumb mixture is golden, 10 minutes. Transfer the tomatoes to a platter, season with pepper, then let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

  6. Notes: When you core the tomatoes, remove just the very core without making a huge hole in the tomato. Salting the tomatoes firms them up and seasons them through. These cook surprisingly quickly, and the tomatoes get quite soft, which is what you want. Transfer them carefully from grill to plate or platter, using tongs and a metal spatula. Don’t be concerned if the skin is quite dark; as you eat the tomato you’ll find the fleshy part separating from the skin, which will stay on your plate.


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