Tomatoes Provancal

Tomatoes Al Forno or Provençales

In Tuscan, Italy, pomodorro al forno (tomatoes in the oven), with salt and pepper and good olive oil, maybe dried oregano.

In the south of France, tomatoes provençale, with herbes de Provence, salt and pepper and good olive oil. Roasted tomatoes with herbs and olive oil.

In California wine country (which shares the same Mediterranean climate as these two wine producing regions of the word) I call my roasted tomatoes ‘Provençale” but with “herbs de Californie” – lavender, thyme, rosemary from my garden.

When shopping, acquire the best local tomatoes from a farmer, farm stand or farmer’s market (or your own garden) and choose ripe tomatoes that are uniform in size and color (red early girl, red or yellow roma tomatoes, or any heirloom variety). Allow one tomato per serving, plus a few extra for the chef!

 

Method

Have a gratin dish at the ready. Using a serrated utility knife (I prefer a serrated knife for slicing most fruit – and tomatoes are a fruit, from a vine) slice off the tops and bottom of each tomato and fit each one into the gratin dish. Fill the gratin dish with your tomatoes, making them nice and snug in the pan.

With laser focus and your full attention, season each tomato with salt and fresh ground black pepper, a good lashing of extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle liberally with an herbes de Provence mixture.

You can use fresh chopped rosemary or fresh thyme leaves mixed with lavender, if you have it. Avoid dried herbs, if possible and use fresh herbs instead – a few sprigs should be sufficient.

Roast the tomatoes in a hot oven (400-450 degrees) 10-12 minutes or till the tomatoes start to “melt” and the liquid is bubbling nicely.

 

Chef Willie Notes

Tomatoes al forno like these will hold well in a warm oven for up to an hour before you are ready to serve. They are also excellent cold, the next day, used as a topping for grilled cheese or a sandwich spread. The olive oil and tomato “nectar” is fantastic soaked up with warm grilled bread too!

Alternatively, follow the set up for the tomatoes as in the recipe, and slow roast them in a warm oven (200-250 degree) overnight, set up on a rack in the roasting pan, so the juices can concentrate.