Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cherry Tomato Clafoutis

I first encountered Patricia Wells while working in Sungei Besi refugee camp in Malaysia.  Having little else of interest to read, I would read every inch of the International Herald Tribune, including the financial news and coverage of test cricket, two subjects I remain woefully ignorant of.  Patricia Wells' articles came out once or twice a week as I recall. 

While almost all the writing in the paper was of a very high standard--even the cricket coverage could be compelling--I particularly enjoyed Wells' articles.  Mostly reviews of Parisian eateries, her writing was informative and informed.  When she praised a particular chef's handling of bouillabaisse, she placed it within the context of other chefs' treatment of the dish, not only pointing out the differences, but explaining why each chose the approach they did.  It was obvious when reading her that Wells had a great knowledge of and keen passion for the food she wrote about.  Living on a $500 a month salary, working in a rather bleak refugee camp on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, I found myself transported to the bistros and restaurants Wells assayed in her articles.

Although I tend to cook mostly Asian food and thus my collection of cookbooks skews towards recipes from those countries, I do have a handful of other cookbooks I enjoy.  For French and Italian food I am partial to Wells and Joyce Goldstein.  Both authors not only write clear, tasty recipes, but also include information on the background of the dishes and useful tips along with a clean prose style.  I have seldom been disappointed in any of the recipes I have tried from either of these authors.

Having stopped by the Mien strawberry stand down the street from my house, I discovered they had these brilliant jewels of cherry tomatoes little bigger than peas.  Once I saw them, I decided I'd have to find a way to use them.  This recipe for cherry tomato clafoutis is adapted from Wells' recipe for tomato clafoutis from Patricia Wells at Home in Provence.  Larger cherry tomatoes would work just as well--and be a lot less time consuming when halving and salting.  Wells recipe (which I halved) calls for baking the clafoutis in a 10 1/2-inch round baking dish. 

1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
fine sea salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3 TBS heavy cream
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 375º F.

Place the halved tomatoes in a colander, cut side up.  Sprinkle them with the salt.  Set aside for 30 to 60 minutes to allow the salt to draw the liquid from the tomatoes.  Then place the tomatoes in a bowl lined with paper towels. 

In a small bowl, bet together the egg, yolk, cream, half the cheese, and half the thyme leaves.

Divide the tomatoes between two four-inch ramekins.  Pour the batter over the tomatoes.  Top with the remaining thyme and cheese. 

Bake in the oven until the batter is set and the clafoutis is golden.  Serve warm or at room temperature. 


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