I Pomodori Fritti Di Mari

Maria Maurillo of Malvarina, near Assisi, fries the living daylights out of her tomatoes, so that their skins are nearly blackened, their flesh wonderfully sweet. She uses whatever tomatoes are most flavorful, and the day I watched her she was slicing plum tomatoes in half lengthwise, frying, and talking to me all the while. I kept thinking the heat was too high as the skins got darker and darker, but of course I said nothing. And later, as I ate the sublime, sweet, and aromatic tomatoes, I was glad I hadn’t. They were perfect. I make these often in summer when tomatoes flood the vines and am always reminded of Maria.

Serve a crisp, fragrant white wine here, such as the excellent Torre di Giano Bianco.

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 pounds (about 8 medium) firm, flavorful tomatoes,
cored and cut lengthwise in half

Fine sea salt

¼ cup (loosely packed) fresh thyme leaves

2 cloves garlic, cut in half, green germ removed

  1. Pour enough of the oil into a heavy skillet to make a thin but even layer on the bottom of the pan (for 10-inch skillet, use half the oil) and heat over medium-high heat until it is hot but not smoking. Add as many tomatoes, skin side down, as will easily fit into the pan without crowding. Cook until the skin is spotted very dark brown to black, about 4 minutes. Turn the tomatoes and cook until the cut side is very dark brown as well, 4 to 5 minutes more. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking, turning the tomatoes regularly until they are very dark around the edges and have almost melted, but still keep their shape, 16 to 20 minutes. Adjust the heat so the tomatoes brown but don’t burn.
  2. Transfer the tomatoes to a serving dish. Repeat the process with the remaining tomatoes, adding more oil to the pan as necessary. Sprinkle the cooked tomatoes lightly with salt.
  3. .
    Use any firm, slightly underripe, but wonderfully flavorful tomato for the best results. Soft tomatoes tend to dissolve during cooking

    Just before serving, very finely mince the thyme and garlic together and sprinkle it over the tomatoes.

6 to 8 servings

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