Fire-Charred Tomatoes ♥ a Recipe from the 'Seven Fires' Cookbook

Fire-Charred Tomatoes
From the new and most-inspiring cookbook "Seven Fires" (much recommended as a Father's Day gift idea), tomatoes cooked on a very hot fire til charred, creating a smoky, luscious bite of summer. Low carb. Weight Watchers 1 point.

In 2007, I lucked into spending a day with author and writer Peter Kaminsky just back from Argentina where he'd been cooking over fire with Argentinian chef Francis Mallman. A book was in the works and Peter was stoked -- smoked?! -- with the idea of reducing cooking to no more than fire and food.

Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentinian Way is that book and truly, it's a treasure. For anyone who likes to grill, who's serious about barbecue, who cooks outdoors, this cookbook will be a real inspiration. But for others, too, the ingredient lists are short and accessible, the food spare and simple. There's plenty of meat in the cookbook but the vegetable recipes have really captured my imagination. I can see cooking from this book -- directly from its recipes but also on my own, just from its inspiration -- for a long time. It's an entirely new way to cook -- or perhaps, better said, it's an entirely OLD way to cook but made contemporary.

The 'seven fires' are the parilla (a grill grate set over hot coals); the chapa (flat cast iron griddle set over fire)' an infernillo (a two-story fire with a cooking surface in between); a horno de barro (wood-fired oven); a rescoldo (covering food with embers); asado (a vertical spit for cooking whole animals); and caldero (iron kettle).

So far, we've tried the charring technique over an open wood fire, on the stovetop and on the grill with a hickory log for smoke. The first real hit, the 'recipe' we'll make again and again all summer, is the fire-charred tomato.
THE TASTE OF BURNT "I adore dissonance in food -- two tastes fighting each other. It wakes up your palate and surprises you. As you'll see in many of the recipes in this book, charring or even burning adds an extra dimension to breads, vegetable, and fruit. The right amount of burning or charring can be delicious and seductive: a burnt tomato, for example, has a dark crust bordering on bitter, while the inside is soft and gentle in texture and taste." ~ Seven Fires, page 5


Hands-on time: 5 minutes
Time to table: 15 minutes
Serves 4

Olive oil
4 medium-size perfect summer tomatoes
Kosher salt or another good coarse salt

Heat a cast iron skillet until smoky hot, adding a layer of olive oil after a minute or two. Cut the 'cap' off each tomato, about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way down. Press the salt into the cut surfaces. When the skillet is hot, place the tomatoes, cut-side down, onto the hot surface. DO NOT MOVE -- and let cook for exactly 10 minutes. Transfer to serving plates, serve and savor!

Don't be tempted to move the tomato once it's on the skillet -- otherwise the charred skin won't develop.
There will be smoke so if you've got a good fan, turn it on, or can cook outside (on a grill's side burner, say), do that.

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This recipe is so quick and easy that I'm adding it to a growing collection of easy summer recipes being published all summer long in 2009 at Kitchen Parade, my food column. With a free Kitchen Parade e-mail subscription, you'll never miss a one!

Looking for healthy ways to cook vegetables? A Veggie Venture is home to hundreds of quick, easy and healthful vegetable recipes and the famous Alphabet of Vegetables. Healthy eaters will love the low carb recipes and the Weight Watchers recipes.
© Copyright 2009

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. AnonymousJune 11, 2009

    That is an interesting way to cook the tomatoes. Thanks for the cookbook recommendaton as well. What heat temperature are you cooking the tomatoes? Medium? Medium-high?

  2. Yum. This recipe is inspiration to got the farmers market to pick up some tomatoes. Can't wait to try this!

  3. That must have been a great day spent with Peter. I love this idea. Thanks for the reminder about turning on the fan!

  4. AnonymousJune 11, 2009

    This looks so great. I have been playing with grilling vegetables for salads and have been reading about grilling tomatoes. This looks sooooo good! Have you ever tried slow roasting them in the oven? I hear that is incredible but have yet to have the patience to try.

  5. Anonymous ~ You're welcome! You want the skillet really really hot, as hot as it takes to create a little smoke before adding the tomatoes. Hope that helps!

    Lynn ~ Indeed! Truth be told, these were hothouse tomatoes so I'm anxious to try the technique with 'real' tomatoes too.

    Susan ~ Peter is a fascinating man, for sure, he made for a wonderful companion.

    DishinandDishes ~ Have I tried slow-roasting tomatoes? Have I ever! See how I roasted 15 batches in a couple of weeks, just to perfect the technique.

  6. We're still at least six weeks away from prime tomato season in RI, so I'm bookmarking this for later in the summer. We have a fire pit and do some cooking on it, so I'll be able to try more than one of these methods.

  7. i love just how many things you can grill. how does everything taste good charred? i can't wait for good grilled!

  8. The tomatoes sound fabulous! I think the cookbook might generate some interest around my house. It seems like a good choice for Boy Scouts or campers who have a special interest in cooking.

  9. This seems really neat! I love the quote about the seductiveness of (purposely) burnt food, it's so true. I'm thinking of margehrita pizza crust.

  10. This sounds really interesting and tasty! Bookmarked!

  11. That looks totally mouth-watering, Alanna. Drooling...LOL


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna