In all my years of cooking, my favorite special event was a dinner that I hosted at the James Beard House in NYC with ten of my favorite girl “grill friends.” We made an elaborate six-course meal with North Carolina shrimp, Alaskan salmon, prime beef, bacon-wrapped dayboat scallops and more—all great ingredients to showcase the grill-centric menu that celebrated my website, GirlsattheGrill.com.
I started the cocktail hour with a very light nibble, my signature Tumbled Tomatoes, because I didn’t want the guests to fill up on heavy hors d’oeuvres before dinner started. So imagine my surprise when I went table-to-table after the meal to greet the guests, and everyone wanted the recipe for my cherry tomato starter.
What did you do with those tomatoes?! Everyone asked…and I thought to myself, “the Girls and I could have saved ourselves days of cooking and just served everyone a bowl of Tumbled Tomatoes.” To this day, they are one of my favorite snacks and cocktail nibbles. Every time I serve them to someone new, I get asked for the recipe. This happened the other day, and it reminded me that it was time to share the cherry tomato joy.
Besides being tasty, Tumbled Tomatoes are good for you, low in calories and a perfect way to whet the appetite for your favorite meal. I make these seasoned tomatoes every week, all year-long with grape tomatoes but they are even better with summer tomatoes—and just the thing to make with the last of the season.
The spice mixture of coarse sea salt, dehydrated garlic and herbes de Provence is tailor-made for sweet, ripe cherry tomatoes. And the method of rinsing and “tumbling” them in the same bowl you’ll serve them in is where the name came from. They only take a few minutes to make, but the trick is making them early enough in the day that they have time to dry naturally—uncovered in the refrigerator—until the spice mixture creates a crisp dry crust on each tomato. Most everyone says never refrigerate tomatoes because it affects their texture, but this is the exception. The cold air helps evaporate the excess water and create the crust. It doesn’t change the texture of the cherry tomatoes at all.
Because I make them so often, I make a quantity of the herb and salt rub and leave it in a salt grinder for easy access. If you fall in love with these tomatoes, I suggest you do the same and once the spice mixture is already made, it will only take a minute to get them started.
Elizabeth’s Tumbled Tomatoes
I take this easy appetizer to parties in a pretty ceramic bowl that I leave as a hostess gift—with a copy of the recipe because everyone always asks for it!
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon dehydrated garlic
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
Mix herbs, salt and garlic, put the spice mixture in a salt grinder or pulverize slightly in a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have either, just skip that step but the herbs will be large and I prefer it when they are ground fine like a coarse dust. You can easily quadruple this recipe and keep the mixture in a salt grinder for easy access.
Wash tomatoes in cold water and remove all excess water, but do not dry. Toss tomatoes with herbs in a serving bowl until they are evenly coated.
Refrigerate the bowl uncovered, until all water is evaporated; tossing or “tumbling” tomatoes in their bowl occasionally until herb and salt mixture has formed a crust on the tomatoes. Serve Chilled