Thursday, September 20, 2012

Candied Tomatoes

2 Candied Tomatoes on Plate
A Most Unusual Recipe

Recipe adapted from the Hawaii Kai Cookbook

The words candied and tomatoes are rarely seen together. But once you do see them together, they create a strange and compelling idea in the mind, at least in my mind. Since tomatoes are technically fruits, the candied concept seems plausible. Until you consider that eggplant, green beans, and peppers are also fruits, because they too contain seeds.  And what’s up with sweet onion in the candy part? Clearly this is one unusual recipe. But since it was served in an iconic NYC restaurant specializing in Hawaiian cuisine, how could it not be good?

Baking Pan of Heirloom Varieties and Early Girls being Topped with Candy
Try it on a Variety of Tomatoes
And yet I doubted. For one thing, I saw no tomatoes when I visited Hawaiian farmers markets. For another, the promising historic Tomatoes with Cream and Sugar recipe from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Frontier Foods Cookbook turned out too strange to eat. Also, Hawaii Kai was a trendy New York restaurant in the 1960s, when “good food” was defined quite differently. But despite misgivings, I’ll try any tomato recipe once.

Baking Dish Filled with Tomatoes Ready to Bake
Ready for the Oven
Surprisingly, both my husband and I gave Candied Tomatoes two thumbs up. They look dessert-like, with candied topping neatly mounded on top of individual red and yellow tomatoes. And they taste like some summery variation on candied yams. In fact, you could use this topping on yams. Bruce suggested that we could serve them for dessert if we left out the onions. Considering our tomato crop and upcoming potluck schedule, that’s a distinct possibility.

Scooping Candied Topping up to Put onto Tomatoes
It's All About the Topping
The original recipe calls for a “1960s” amount of butter. I substituted healthier walnut oil and reduced the amount. Then I drizzled just a small amount of butter over the topping for flavor. Since the whole grain breadcrumbs that I had on hand contained Italian herbs, I opted for panko crumbs, which held together perfectly to make the topping mound-able. You could opt to make your own breadcrumbs, as long as they’re super-dry when you stir them in. This isn’t the healthiest tomato recipe I've ever blogged, but it is the most unusual. Surprise your family and friends, if you dare!

Baking Pan Filled with Candied Tomatoes
Unusually Attractive Side Dish
Candied Tomatoes
serves 6

Non-stick cooking spray or oil
3 large or 6 small tomatoes
1 Maui or Vidalia (sweet) onion
2 ½ tbsp. walnut or almond oil
4 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. honey
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
¾ tsp. salt
½ - 1 tbsp. melted butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray baking dish with non-stick cooking spray or rub with light oil such as walnut or almond.

Peel tomatoes. If skin doesn’t come off the tomatoes easily using just a knife, blanch them: bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Set up a large bowl of ice water nearby. Drop tomatoes into boiling water for 15 – 30 seconds, depending on their size. Remove with slotted spoon and immediately place in ice water for a minute or two. They’ll peel easily now.

Cut tomatoes in half from top to bottom. Place in baking dish with cut sides up.

Chop onion very fine. You will have ¾ -1 cup.

Heat skillet over medium to medium high heat. When hot, add walnut oil and sauté onion until golden, about 6 minutes. Add brown sugar, honey, and salt, and stir until sugar is melted. Remove from heat.

Add bread crumbs to skillet and stir until well-mixed.

With a small scoop or spoon (I used a melon baller) and your fingers, compress spoonfuls of the bread crumb mixture onto each tomato half in a mound. 

Drizzle a little melted butter over each tomato (I used ½ tbsp. total) for extra flavor, or use a sprinkle of salt (optional).

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

1 comment:

  1. These were very yummy. I do think I would like them even better without the onions though. The smaller tomatoes that held together better were easier to eat but the heirloom tomatoes were very tasty too. Those with very darkly toasted toppings held up well even a few days later but the more lightly toasted ones were better the first day. The topping on these got a bit softer than I would have liked after a few days.