Tomato Recipes – Inspired by Provence

My life in Provence is a simple one. I wake to the clangs of the village bells and the dogs that howl in harmony. I walk to the bakery – simple baguette is now all I need. The previous holidays’ over-eager eyes and expanding waistline have taught me that croissants, brioche and flans are not for every-day eating. I wait for my children to rouse – they sleep long in the summer, weary from late nights in village squares and playing 500 around the table in the corner of the garden in twilight. I drink coffee in a bowl – a soupy, milky brew, and eat my bread with tomato and butter salted with grains from the Camargue.

tomato-cherry at pernes marketAs a family, then we go to market. A different village each day. There, I buy tomatoes. I find other goods for my basket, and then we find the prettiest garden restaurant we can. We sit and order the menu du jour, never even bothering to look at what it offers. A pichet de rose for good measure. I taste food in season, and always, always, there are tomatoes. They come in tarts, salads or soups, on bread, roasted or stewed, pureed, raw or dried. They are always good.

We return to our rented cottage, and then I cook. Tomatoes.

And, like my favourite childhood book character, Harriet the Spy, I never ever get sick of them.

As promised in my previous post, here’s a selection of super easy tomato recipes…

Cherry Tomato Tart

This came about after seeing a cherry tomato pizza in Tarascon market. It’s also made with the incredibly easy pizza pastry that can be bought in supermarkets in France (this one). It’s a bit like a shortcrust pastry with a little yeast. It’s not like any other pizza dough I have come across. If you can’t find it where you are, use a shortcrust or flaky pastry if you like a firm tart, or a puff pastry if you like it airy. Store bought people – if the French can cheat like this, so can we.

tomatoes-tartIngredients

  • 500g cherry tomatoes
  • one round pastry base (approx 400g)
  • 3 shallots, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • rose wine (or verjus) – about 100ml
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 150g soft chevre (no rind)
  • several sprigs of fresh basil

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC
  2. heat a little olive oil in a pan and add the shallots and garlic. Cook on a medium heat to caramelise, adding a little wine/verjus every now and then to deglaze the pan. When almost done, add the tomatoes, salt, pepper and sugar and the rest of the wine and cook down until dry (about 5 minutes tops).
  3. Place the pastry on a flat oven tray and roll up the edges. Add the tomatoes etc and spread evenly, then cook for 10-12 minutes or until the pastry is nicely golden.
  4. Remove from the oven, then disperse the fresh basil and teaspoons of chevre over the tart. Serve warm.
notes: sugar will not be necessary if you are using very sweet tomatoes, and verjus will also have some natural sweetness. I used a goat’s milk fromage frais called Petit Billy, similar to another product I know from Australia called Holy Goat. If you can’t find a nice soft chevre, any goats’ cheese will do, or even a firm ricotta (but ricotta will need added salt)

 

Provincial Tomato Gazpacho

Inspired by Le Jardin de Quai in L’Isle Sur la Sorgue. Last year they gave me an heirloom tomato salad. This year it was a perfect creamy textured gazpacho. Not the first I have tasted on this trip – it’s a popular dish in summer in Provence – but definitely the best.

tomato-gazpachoIngredients

  • 1/2 a stale baguette
  • 60ml Muscat Beaumes de Venise (or verjus)
  • 1kg very ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • sherry vinegar and Salt, to taste
  • Par-roasted cherry tomatoes, basil, good quality baby mozzerella and soft deseeded black olives for garnish

Instructions

  1. Break up the bread and Soak in the olive oil and muscat until soft
  2. Place soggy bread, leftover juice and all ingredients except garnish in a blender and pulse until smooth.
  3. If necessary, pass through a seive (you don’t want to be able to see seeds)
  4. Chill for at least one hour.
  5. Serve cold with a few tomatoes, bocconcini, basil and olives in each bowl. Swirl a little olive oil over the top to complete the picture.
notes:
Serves 4-6. Muscat Beaumes De Venise is a regional sweet white wine – fresh and grapey, and lightly fortified. Verjus is unfermented grape juice for those who prefer to cook without alcohol. To par-roast cherry tomatoes, simply place on foil in a 200ºC oven for 7-8 minutes. Make sure you let them cool before placing on top of the chilled soup.

 

Roasted tomatoes with Coppa

An incredibly simple dish tasted at Resturaunt du Parc, Fontaine de Vaucluse, showing me that if the tomatoes taste good, all you need is a contrasting flavour to make a complete dish.

tomato-roasted with pancettaIngredients

  • Cherry tomatoes (100-150g per person)
  • Coppa (2 slices per person)
  • fresh thyme sprigs
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • parmesan

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC
  2. combine the cherry tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme, rolling them around until everything is well coated.
  3. Place in an oven-proof serving dish, arranging the coppa in flowerettes between the tomatoes
  4. bake for 10-12 minutes, keeping an eye on the pancetta to make sure it does not burn. If it colours too quickly, remove and add at the last moment.
  5. Serve warm with shaved parmesan and crusty bread.
 

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata

Another simple dish tasted at L’oustau d’Isle. Tomato and burrata is not a new thing – it’s definitely a crowd pleaser, the way the milk from the centre of the cheese spills throughout the salad as soon as you cut it, and the wonderful contrast it’s creamy texture provides to an acid tomato. But because it’s so simple, there is a very basic rule that needs to be followed – your produce must be the very best quality you can get.

tomato-heirloom salad with burrataIngredients

  • Assorted tomatoes (150g per person)
  • Burrata (see notes)
  • fresh leaves {I like parsley, basil and mustard greens} (1/2 cup per person)
  • olive oil (2 tsp per person)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • coppa or pancetta, lightly crisped (optional)
  • lemon juice (optional)

Instructions

  1. Combine ingredients and serve
notes:
If you want to make your own burrata, you’ll find a great instruction here.The coppa is not really necessary, but adds a nice crunch and salt. Lemon juice is also entirely unnecessary. Most salads call for an acid to balance the oil in a dressing, but if your tomatoes are full flavoured, you’ll probably find you don’t need it

4 Comments

  1. How wonderfully inspirational and delightful. Your blog is as always a delight. Glad to see you are in the thick of things…

  2. Pingback: Food shopping secrets in Dubai

  3. I hope one day I’ll have the opportunity to visit Provence…amazing recipes!

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