Just a few minutes under the broiler transforms everyday Campari tomatoes into extra-juicy and slightly smoky flavor bombs. Honey, olive oil and dried mild chile pepper make these broiled tomatoes a super flavorful starter or side dish.
Last winter, I was eating dinner with my husband, Jason, at Misi restaurant in Brooklyn, NY. Misi is most known for their handmade pastas but, honestly, everything on the menu is worth celebrating. That night, barely to my surprise, I was blown away by what seemed to be the simplest dish on the menu. So blown away, in fact, that it easily ranks as one of my favorite bites of 2019. The dish? Slow-roasted heirloom tomatoes that were topped with toasted coriander and fennel seeds, then drizzled with hot honey. It was so simple and understated that I almost didn't order it. But thanks to the encouragement of the my friend Missy Robins—chef and owner of both Misi and Lilia restaurants—I ordered the tomatoes and will never forget them.
The recipe here isn't Missy's, sadly, but it's inspired by it and you'll still be very happy. It comes together in no time at all! In just a few minutes under the broiler, the tomatoes get slightly softened and start to release their juices, which essentially form an instant dressing as they mingle with the honey and olive oil that gets drizzled on top. Unlike the coriander and fennel seeds that Missy uses, I opt to sprinkle them with Aleppo-style pepper or Urfa biber.
Aleppo pepper gets its name from the Syrian city of Aleppo but, due to the challenges of the war-torn Syrian region, Aleppo-style pepper is now sourced from Turkey and other regions. It comes from chile peppers that are deep red with a mild fruity flavor that's reminiscent of sun-dried tomatoes. It's flaky enough to pick up and feels almost moist, unlike everyday crushed red pepper. Plus, it's rare that you'll find any seeds in store-bought versions.
Urfa biber is a Turkish chile from the Urfa region of the country. It's also flaky and mild, like Aleppo-style pepper, but it has a much deeper maroon color. The flavor is slightly smoky and is more reminiscent of raisins than it is sun-dried tomatoes.
If you can't find Aleppo-style pepper or Urfa biber, try substituting another mild dried red chile. Or look for a chile pepper product that's imported from Turkey as it's likely botanically the same thing. My friend Leland recently gifted me a little bag of Silk Chili from Burlap & Barrel, which is essentially an Aleppo-style pepper. It's the perfect balance of spicy and sweet and works incredibly well for this recipe. Another option could be finely ground ancho chiles (dried poblanos) or a mild pure chile powder (not to be confused with "chili" powder). In a pinch, I think crushed red pepper would suffice, but be aware that that's a much spicier option.
One of the best things about this recipe is that you can make it all year long. There's no need to find the best-ever summer tomatoes because you're broiling them. Their flavor is concentrated during the process and they get extra juicy, almost like really ripe tomatoes. Plus, most packaged tomatoes are pretty consistent nowadays.
If you're looking for another elegant and tasty appetizer or side dish, be sure to check out my Hearts of Palm in Vinaigrette!
Broiled Tomatoes with Honey and Crushed Chile Pepper
- 1 pound Campari tomatoes, halved
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Honey, for drizzling
- Aleppo-style pepper or Urfa biber, for sprinkling (see Note)
- Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Position an oven rack 6-to-8 inches from the heat and preheat the broiler. Arrange the tomatoes cut side up on a flameproof baking sheet or baking pan and drizzle them lightly with olive oil. Broil for 3 to 5 minutes, until the tomatoes are juicy and slightly softened but not collapsing. Transfer to a platter.
- Drizzle the tomatoes with honey and a bit more olive oil. Sprinkle with the Aleppo-style pepper or Urfa biber. Season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.