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.