Thursday, August 2, 2007

Husk Tomato

About 10 years ago I discovered one of summer's mysteries. A fruit/vegetable labeled as a husk tomato also known as a ground cherry. It has a papery jacket in the fashion of the tomatillo but is as small as a current tomato. They are ripe when their meat is a golden-orange, which is hidden under its warm weather sheathing. As a flavor profile it is quite dynamic with an explosion reminiscent of pineapple and a musky finish. I must warm those who will seek out the husk tomato – they are addictive!

I have used my bounty in both sweet and savory applications – I still have not made up my mind how to classify them. For the last two years I have taken late August husk tomatoes and dried them on my kitchen counter, still in their casing, and used them in rice pilafs all winter long -- lay them on a screen or fine mesh strainer and place them in a cool dry spot. If they are not in a single layer give them a toss once a day to help prevent them for getting moldy. Let them sit for about a week. Eat them as a snack, or freeze them and put them in your Thanksgiving Cranberry Relish.

This native of South America peaks during the dog-days-of summer, and quickly disappears with the cooling breath of autumn. Look for ones that have a dried outer-shell with dazzling orbs contained within.

Husk Tomato and Corn Salad - yields 6 to 8 servings

4 ears of white corn
1 pint husk tomatoes
1 hot chili - such as a habenero
2 limes - juiced
1 tablespoon Toasted Seasme Oil
1/4 cup basil leaves - roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the corn kernels from their cob and place in a bowl. Peel the husks from the tomatoes and wash. Split the chili in half and remove the seeds. Finely dice the chili and toss all the ingredients together. Let the salad sit for 30 minutes at room temperature before serving in order to let the flavors meld.

Blueberry and Husk Tomato Bread Pudding - yields 10 to 12 servings

1 quart cream
3 ounces white chocolate - chopped
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 whole eggs
1/2 cup sugar
12 ounces blueberries
1 pint husk tomatoes
12” loaf brioche bread – cut into 1” cubes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 3 quart baking dish.

In a two quart sauce pan bring the cream to just the boil and remove from the heat. Stir in the chopped white chocolate and vanilla extra. In a clean work bowl beat the eggs and sugar together thoroughly combined. Slowly add the warm cream mixture into the eggs adding it slowly.

In the baking dish layer the bread and fruit, and then carefully pour over the egg mixture. Gently press down on the bread to ensure it’s saturated with the egg mixture. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, and place in the oven. Cook for 45 minutes, and then shut off the heat. Let the pudding rest in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

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