The last selection in our sweet tomato serenade is an oldie but a goodie: tomato caramel sauce. When you think about it, tomato caramel is really just the logical extension of tomato jam, only the sugar is cooked to a higher temperature to create a complexity of flavor you wouldn’t otherwise get.
What possible application is there for such thing? I first encountered it as a delicious drizzle on a savory goat cheese tart. But this preparation just as easily swings the other way: as an ice cream topping or a garnishing sauce for a decadent chocolate cake. Chocolate and tomato? I can already hear you saying. How dreadful! That all depends on who you talk to. For there are more than a few chocolate epicures out there who swear that chocolate has an eternal affinity for the members of the capsicum family that shared its native Central American habitat. These edibles include chile peppers (all the rage as a chocolate cake ingredient in 2005) and their close relatives, tomatoes. So it’s said, they make the experience of chocolate more…chocolate-y. Who am I to argue?
To make tomato caramel sauce you’ll need:
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of water
1 small-ish tomato, about the size of a plum
1-2 teaspoons good quality tomato paste
Begin by scoring and blanching the tomato in boiling water for two minutes, then peel it, cut it in half and squeeze out the seeds. Cut out the core and puree in a blender with the tomato paste until smooth. You’ll need a little less than half a cup.
Next put the sugar in a thick-bottomed sauce pan and moisten it with the sugar. Turn the flame to high, and gently swirl the pan until the sugar turns a medium amber. Remove from the heat and allow the caramel to cool for two or three minutes, then carefully add the tomato puree. It will bubble up rather violently, so be prepared for that. Stir with a heat-proof spatula until the tomato is fully incorporated. Cool, pour into a squeeze bottle and use to your heart’s content. It will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks.