Because the filling ingredients are not cut too small, they remain intact when caramelized and lend a rich texture to this unusual and beautiful dessert.
The glazing-basting step at the end enhances the look and flavor. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
- 8 medium ripe red or yellow heirloom tomatoes (about 2 3/4 pounds)
- 1 medium apple (about 7 ounces), peeled, cored and cut into small matchsticks
- 1 medium ripe pear, such as Anjou (about 7 ounces), peeled, cored and cut into small matchsticks
- 3 ounces dried unsulphured unsweetened apricots, preferably Turkish, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
- Finely grated zest of 1 large orange (at least 1 tablespoon)
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (at least 1 teaspoon)
- 2-inch piece peeled ginger root, cut into small matchsticks
- 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped walnuts
- 1 tablespoon sliced (skin-on) almonds, coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon unsalted roasted pistachios, preferably Sicilian, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons golden or dark raisins
- 1 whole clove
- Pinch anise seed
- Pinch ground cinnamon
- 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise and seeded
- 10 mint leaves, minced
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- Water (optional)
Invert the 8 tomatoes so that you will be cutting into the bottom of them. Cut a narrow horizontal slice off the (new) top. Use a melon baller to scoop out the seeds, leaving the outer and inner walls of the tomato intact, to create a well inside the tomatoes.
Combine the apple, pear and dried apricots in a medium bowl.
Heat 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Once it has started to caramelize and smoke, add the fruit and stir to coat. Cook for a few minutes, stirring to keep the fruit from sticking.
Add the orange and lemon zests, ginger, walnuts, almonds, pistachios and raisins. Stir to incorporate; cook for 1 minute.
Add the clove, anise seed, cinnamon, scrapings of vanilla beans and the split bean pods themselves. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat; transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and search for the clove (which might be a little hard to find) and the vanilla bean pods; discard them. Add the mint and stir to incorporate.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Have at hand a gratin dish large enough to accommodate the tomatoes snugly. Fill the tomatoes with the mixture, creating small mounds on top of each one.
Wipe out the saucepan and return it to the stove over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of brown sugar and the butter; stir until the butter has melted, then cook for a few minutes to form a caramel sauce. If it starts to burn, add a little water as needed. Pour the sauce into the gratin dish, then place the filled tomatoes in the sauce. Bake for a total of 6 or 7 minutes; during that time, baste 3 times with the sauce in the gratin dish, coating the filling on top and the tomatoes themselves. The tomato skin should be not be wrinkled.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
From chef Gerard Pangaud of the Blue Rock Inn in Washington, Va.
Tested by Edward A. Lichorat.
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