I review our latest advances in wide-field interferometric imaging of biological cells with molecular specificity, obtained by time-modulated photothermal excitation of gold nanoparticles. Heat emitted from the nanoparticles affects the measured phase signal via both the nanoparticle surrounding refractive-index and thickness changes. These nanoparticles can be bio-functionalized to bind certain biological cell components; thus, they can be used for biomedical imaging with molecular specificity, as new nanoscopy labels, and for photothermal therapy. Predicting the ideal nanoparticle parameters requires a model that computes the thermal and phase distributions around the particle, enabling more efficient phase imaging of plasmonic nanoparticles, and sparing trial and error experiments of using unsuitable nanoparticles. We thus developed a new model for predicting phase signatures from photothermal nanoparticles with arbitrary parameters. We also present a dual-modality technique based on wide-field photothermal interferometric phase imaging and simultaneous ablation to selectively deplete specific cell populations labelled by plasmonic nanoparticles. We experimentally demonstrated our ability to detect and specifically ablate in vitro cancer cells over-expressing epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFRs), labelled with plasmonic nanoparticles, in the presence of either EGFR under-expressing cancer cells or white blood cells. This demonstration established an initial model for depletion of circulating tumour cells in blood. The proposed system is able to image in wide field the label-free quantitative phase profile together with the photothermal phase profile of the sample, and provides the ability of both detection and ablation of chosen cells after their selective imaging.