Friday, January 14, 2005

Cezanne's Tomatoes

My favourite piece of art of all time is Renoir's "Le Dejeuner de canotiers". In 1880 Renoir painted a group of his friends enjoying a meal on the terrace of the restaurant Fournaise. I imagine myself as the girl in the straw hat leaning on the balustrade chatting to a group at the next table.

So what has this to do with Cezanne's Tomatoes? Cezanne was a close friend of the Renoir family and the baked tomato recipe was given to Madame Renoir by Cezanne. She asked for the dish to be served on the day her second son, Jean, was born . Madame liked to use a little more oil than Cezanne, as I do also.

Cezanne's Tomatoes (serves 6 people)

9 large tomatoes
2 tablespoons table salt ( I use Maldon)
4 garlic cloves
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
Freshly gound black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs

Wash and dry tomatoes, then cut in half lenghtwise.
Salt abundantly on the cut surface and lay them salt side down on a rack over a dish and allow to drain.
After 10 minutes, squeeze them gently to remove excess water and seeds.
Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.
Using a pastry brush, brush a baking dish with oil. The dish should be large enough to hold all the 18 tomato halves.
Peel, crush and finely chop the garlic.
Remove the parsley from the stalks and chop the leaves finely.
Mix garlic, parsley and pepper together.
Arrange tomato halves in dish and spread mixtrure over each tomatao half.
Pour over a generous helping of olive oil.
Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
Bake 20 - 25 minutes, keeping a watchful eye to avoid burning.
If you think it is necessary, you can use the grill to crisp the tops.

Serve with lots of bread to mop up the juices. I serve a light pinot noir with this dish.

A little history of the tomato - it originates in South America and was introduced into Europe in the 16th Century. The big health plus is the antioxidants it contains which offer protection from free radicals that cause cancer, premature aging and heart disease. Calorie wise a tomato has about 35 calories. Healthy and tasty.

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