“What would you serve with this?” one member kept asking at the Vermentino tasting I recently organized for my wine club.
Fish is the quick answer. But in reality, Vermentino accompanies every course in Liguria. It’s perfect with freshly baked foccaccia scented with rosemary and glistening with fruity olive oil. It’s bliss with the street food farinata, a chickpea crepe cooked in a blazing pizza oven. It beautifully complements the most famous dish of Liguria, Pesto alla Genovese, its herbal notes echoing the heady fragrance of Liguria’s small-leafed, super aromatic basil. Vermentino’s rounder cousin Pigato is an appropriate match for Liguria’s most popular secondo: Mediterranean sea bass on a bed of roasted tomatoes, black olives, cherry tomatoes, and rosemary.
Sadly, none of these would be at our tasting, since we limit ourselves to bread, crackers, and an antipasto or two. Nonetheless, I wanted to capture the flavors of the Mediterranean within our restricted parameters. So here’s what I served:
- Flatbread with rosemary & salt from Sullivan Street Bakery (there called white pizza)
- Roasted black olives
- Tapenade with herb crackers
But I really wanted something with pesto. To go without would be like peanut butter without jelly, or Oreos without milk. Sadly incomplete, and not fair to the Vermentino. But to stick to the bargain, I couldn't bring anything beyond an appetizer.
Scouring Epicurious.com, I found just the ticket: Roasted plum tomatoes with goat cheese and pesto. It unites the classic flavors of Liguria in one little package. Nothing could be simpler. Slice them in half, throw them in the oven, and next thing you know, you've got the perfect receptacle for a dollop of basil and a crumble of goat cheese. They were the hit of the tasting!
(And here's a simple, straightforward recipe for pesto.)
OVEN ROASTED PLUM TOMATOES
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
12 fresh plum tomatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Assorted fillings (such as whole-milk ricotta cheese, pesto, chopped olives, small fresh mozzarella balls, soft fresh goat cheese, and anchovies)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Remove seeds and juices from tomato halves. Arrange tomato halves, cut side up, on prepared sheet; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, then drizzle with oil. Roast tomatoes until slightly charred and tender, about 50 minutes. Cool completely on sheet. Spoon desired filling into each.
Makes 24 servings.