The title makes it sound like a summer salad, but rest assure, this is a bona fide dessert. For my last dessert of the summer, I decided on using the season's amazing tomatoes. I made a tomato curd, tomato meringue, balsamic reduction, hazelnut crumble, and prosciutto ice cream. The tomato curd was made using a black pear variety, smokey, dark, and with a hint of sweet. The curd needed more acid so I added lemon juice to bump up the flavor. I re-purposed the tomato pulp in the meringue, which gave it a slight acidity. Good balsamic vinegar is necessary in the reduction, quality makes all the difference. Cherry tomatoes garnished the dish and they were the star. I picked them up from the Windfall Farms stand at Union Square greenmarket and were labeled as Matt's tomatoes. Whoever Matt is, a round of applause. These cherry tomatoes were so sweet and succulent that they didn't need anything else. No need to get fancy, the best way to eat them is whole, like a grape. Nature doesn't need any garnishes.
This generation of chefs are extremely lucky. We have all the knowledge of previous chefs who have been generous enough to share, and lightning fast technology so the speed of trends and ideas spread quickly. I cannot take credit for this absolutely genius preparation of tomato as a dessert. Alain Passard, chef of L'Arpege (3 Michelin Stars, on The World's 50 Best Restaurants list, who has been cooking longer than I have been ALIVE), is famed for his tomate confite aux douzes saveurs, basically a candied tomato that is stuffed with 12 different types of dried and fresh fruits and nuts. My version uses the same technique and is filled with pineapple, apples, pistachios, slivered almonds, golden raisins, nutmeg, cardamom, and lemon zest. I used heirloom cherry tomatoes, which I had just bought from the market. Underneath each tomato is chopped candied peanuts. It is paired with prosciutto ice cream, a salty and creamy accompaniment to the sweet and tart tomato bundle. It is also garnished with micro basil and flowers. Cherry tomatoes are tiny, so this took some time, patience, and lots of gentleness. The tomatoes are scored, blanched, and the skins removed. Then with a gentle hand, I cut a small flap on the bottom of the tomato to fill it with the caramelized fruit and nut mixture. It took a couple of tries to find the best technique at filling a tomato the size of my thumb without breaking the thin skin. After, it is continuously glazed and baked in a 150F oven. Ninety minutes later, they were done. The results are worth it. Each little tomato is a bundle of sweet, tart, crunchy, juicy, and a tad bitter from the dark caramel glaze. The caramelized peanuts add another dimension of crunch and caramel. The prosciutto ice cream is sweet and salty, highlighting all the flavors previously mentioned. A perfect dessert package.
Imagine a light ricotta cheesecake sitting on a spoonful of buttery Maker's Mark sauce. On top of the cake are fresh blueberries, micro basil, sliced Frog Hollow peaches dripping with sugary goodness, and a sprinkling of a nutty hazelnut crumble with traces of cinnamon. Enjoy all this with a canelle of prosciutto ice cream. This is my newest addition to the summer dessert menu. The prosciutto ice cream is such a challenging item to pair with because it is a very delicate (who knew you could use prosciutto and delicate in the same sentence). Good thing the sweet, salty, and pork flavor of this ice cream ends up pairing pretty well with fresh fruit. Now that summer is here, I've just been so excited to showcase the bounty of produce in it's perfect state. Our first shipment of Frog Hollow peaches came in from CA and I couldn't be more excited. They needed a couple of days to reach optimal ripeness, but hey, all good things are worth waiting for. The sweet and juicy fruit is such a good match for the prosciutto and ricotta. Everything together evokes such memories of a good summer meal, namely, fresh fruit, crispy pork, and bourbon.
Recently, I have been working on a dessert version of a popular summer snack, prosciutto & melon. There's nothing quite like a cold, sweet juicy slice of melon wrapped in salty prosciutto while dining al fresco and sipping a chilled glass of prosecco. This idea occurred to me when, half-joking, a cook gave me prosciutto scraps and suggested I make ice cream out of it. Someone mentioned prosciutto and melon and BAM, I was taking them up on their offer of prosciutto scraps. I decided on a prosciutto ice cream, fresh honeydew melon, olive oil cake, balsamic reduction, and ricotta, yogurt, and mint sauce.The addition of balsamic, olive oil, and mint are reminiscent of the original prosciutto and melon. I fried the prosciutto until crispy, before infusing it in milk and heavy cream mixture overnight. The resulting liquid end up making a delicious sweet, salty, and bacon-esque eggy ice cream. I didn't want to put actual prosciutto pieces in the dessert, since those slivers of salty goodness can overpower all the other subtle flavors at work. Unfortunately, I'm still waiting for really amazing honeydew melon to pop up at the market before making it part of the dessert repertoire. Now everyone in the kitchen are offering me scraps chicken skin and pork blood and challenging me to make ice cream with them. Take note future pastry chefs, savory cooks will do this quite often. Sigh.