It is the end of the growing season in Minnesota and time to harvest all the last hanging fruit from the tomato vines. Any day now we’ll get a killing frost, and I’m bracing myself for it. I only have one small tomato plant, sitting in a rather unceremonious pot on my driveway. I would have moved it, or at least transplanted it into something prettier, if it weren’t so happy right where it is. It’s a rather stingy plant, but when it does put out fruit (about one a week), they’re the sweetest, most magnificent tomatoes I have ever had. In total contrast to my meager harvest, my folks have grown a tomato farm in their yard.
Several varieties, in every color and size. I am the lucky recipient of a tomato basket every couple of weeks. They’ve been made into pizza, gazpacho, caprese salad, sandwiches and this delicate, refreshing tomato sorbet. I was invited to a dinner party that was meant to pay homage to the mighty tomato. I wanted to bring a dessert that would showcase the essence of the fruit. Extracting just the water from the tomato was actually something I had at a local restaurant, where they served it as a chaser to a shot of tequila. The flavor was such a glorious surprise. I mix the water with simple syrup made with basil and then topped the sorbet with a paper-thin chip of green tomatoes. The flavor is vibrant and sweet without compromising the taste of tomato. It was a wonderful end to a gorgeous dinner, which featured this lovely tomato and sweet corn quiche from my neighbor, Stephanie Meyer of FreshTart.com.
Tomato Water Sorbet:
About 10 large tomatoes, ripe
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 cup fresh basil, packed
Juice of half lemon
1 unripe tomato – for chips
Chop up tomatoes and process them in a blender.
Press the tomato pulp through a chinois or fine mesh strainer. Once you have most of the solid matter separated out, allow the juices to run through several layers of cheesecloth for several hours, resting the temptation to press the liquid through the cloth. This will produce a perfectly clear tomato water. You will want about 2 to 3 cups of the water.
While the tomato water is dripping through the cheesecloth, make the simple syrup. In a pot, bring to a boil 2 cups water and 2 cups sugar. Allow it to simmer until all the sugar is dissolved. Add a fist full of fresh basil leaves and allow the syrup to cool completely. This can be made several days ahead. The longer you allow the basil to steep in the syrup the stronger the flavor will be.
Once the tomato water is done straining, add enough of the simple syrup to make an egg float. Yes, you read that right. Follow these directions for making smooth sorbet. Depending on the variety of tomatoes you use, the sorbet may seem too sweet, so you can squeeze half a lemon into the mix and retest with the egg. The sorbet is also lovely with some basil leaves finely chopped and added to the mix.
Freeze the tomato sorbet as your machine suggests.
To make the tomato chips:
Preheat the oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with a silpat. Using a mandoline, slice a green tomato to paper thin slices. You need to use an underripe fruit or it won’t slice as cleanly. Dip the tomato slices in the simple syrup and lay out flat on the silpat. Bake for about 40 minutes or until they are crisp. If you get the tomato sliced very thin, this may happen even faster, so keep a close eye on them, they burn easily once they start to caramelize.
Serve is small glasses as an intermezzo (palate cleanser between courses) or dessert at the end of a big meal.