Sunday, 20 September 2015

Pomodori gratinati (roasted crumbled tomatoes)

Pomodori gratinati (roasted crumbled tomatoes)

I have a special affection for this dish!
Because it is exactly what can be called a family recipe: in fact I learned how to make it from my mother,  my mother from hers and so back for generations. 
It is a classical in my mum's summer repertoire, as she makes it at least once a week when local tomatoes are in season - she is a fanatic of seasonal cooking and for no reason would buy a fresh tomato in winter.
Using the right products this dish actually has all the flavors and colors of summer: ripe tomatoes, herbs, garlic and not much more, just some olive oil, breadcrumbs and salt.
And it's one of those dishes that you can never be bored of, because it's simple but tasty like all the "peasant dishes" are, especially when born out of necessity (why throwing away a piece of stale bread, when you can make crumbs out of it?).

Pomodori gratinati (roasted crumbled tomatoes)

But maybe the most important reason why I love this recipe is that, whenever I make it or eat, it reminds me my grandmother. 
I don't know whether memories make everything nicer or it was for real, but her roasted crumbled tomatoes were better than any other I ever had. 
Of course she used only tomatoes grown by herself in the garden and picked just before using (and this makes alone a big difference); and also, weather permitting, she preferred to cook them outside on the charcoal barbecue rather than in the oven (and the smoky flavor of the burnt skin is just addictive). What else? I don't know. I just like to remember her tomatoes as the best!

All across Italy, in particular in the regions with more temperate weather where tomatoes are widely grown, it is possible to find several different versions of this dish, commonly called "pomodori gratinati", which means "tomatoes cooked au gratin": some recipes include grated cheese (parmigiano or pecorino or other local cheeses), others anchovies and capers, others olives, or even chopped almonds: the mix of herbs can change too (basil, oregano, parsley, or a mix of them, depending on what one has on hand). They are mainly baked in the oven but, as I said, can be grilled on the charcoal (the best version for my liking) or even cooked on the stove.
Pomodori gratinati (roasted crumbled tomatoes)

Here I want to share my family's version of the recipe. That's a bit odd compared to all the other recipes I've posted so far. And the strange thing is that I can't give precise quantities (in grams I mean) for the ingredients, as they strongly depend on the tomatoes used, mainly on how big they are and how many seeds they have (and consequently how much room is left for the crumble filling). 
My grandmother made almost every recipe without weighing anything, but in this case it is necessary to go like this. But trust me, it's not complicated. 
So I will tell you the recipe as my grandmother would do, giving neither the weight for the ingredient nor the number of servings. I usually consider two or three tomatoes per person, as they are always much appreciated and, in any case, can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days.
This dish is traditionally served as a side for meat, chicken or even fish, but I also like to serve it as a starter along with other plates to share. 
Pomodori gratinati (roasted crumbled tomatoes)

Pomodori gratinati (roasted crumbled tomatoes)
ripe medium sized tomatoes, preferably a round variety
garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
mixed fresh herbs (basil, thyme, parsley, oregano, marjoram), finely chopped
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 180 -190°C.
Prepare the filling: to measure the ingredients, consider that you will need approximately one full teaspoon of filling for each half tomato. Breadcrumbs should represent about 3/4 of the mixture.
In a mixing bowl combine the breadcrumbs, herbs, garlic, salt, freshly ground pepper and some tablespoon olive oil; the mixture has to be moist. Mix well and set aside.
Wash the tomatoes, halve and remove all the seeds and juice. Sprinkle each half with a little sea salt and, using a teaspoon, fill them with the prepared breadcrumbs mixture. Place them on a large baking dish lined with parchment paper, add a little more olive oil on top and bake for about 35 to 45 minutes, until tomatoes are tender and slightly  crispy on the edges. Remove from the oven and let rest before serving.
Serve at room temperature or lukewarm with extra-virgin olive oil on the side: each guest will add a splash on top according to their liking.
If there are any leftovers, they keep for a couple of days in the fridge in a airtight container; just let them come back at room temperature (or warm for few minutes in the oven) before serving. 
Pomodori gratinati (roasted crumbled tomatoes)

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