4 firm but ripe tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
16 black peppercorns (see note)
2 tsp. fresh oregano leaves
Heat a chapa or large cast-iron skillet over high heat until a drop of water sizzles on the surface. Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes in half. Brush the cut side of each tomato half with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt to taste.
Place the tomatoes cut side down on the hot surface. Do not move for 8-10 min. or they will burst and lose their shape. The bottoms of the tomatoes will show a thin black line of char all around when they are done.
Using a sharp-edged spatula, lift the tomatoes off the hot surface and invert onto a serving plate, burnt side up. With a chef's knife, cut crosshatches into the surface of the tomatoes. Sprinkle with the peppercorns and oregano, drizzle with more olive oil and serve immediately. (Note: I like whole peppercorns here, but you can also coarsely crack or grind them.)
Burnt tomatoes make an ideal garnish for any grilled fish or meat, and they add life to basic pasta sauce.
Excerpted from Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, by Francis Mallmann, Artisan Books, ©2009