Walnut Ice Cream + Tomato Sauce

Sounds gross doesn’t it… ice cream and tomatoes. Same was my first reaction to the recipe and almost everyone I told about it, but it turned out amazing! I posted about heirloom tomatoes a couple of weeks ago and included some interesting tomato recipes I wanted to try for dessert – this being one of them. The recipe came from Oliveto, a local restaurant in the Bay area. Each summer they conjure up new desserts with tomatoes for the season depending on what the farms grow and how they are tasting. I was lucky enough to stumble across the recipes while searching for tomato desserts and definitely plan to make it again.

Two firsts for me with this recipe – first time to make ice cream and first time to make a caramel sauce. The ice cream was pretty simple. I think the most difficult part was tempering the eggs and adding them back to the heat to thicken, but doing this is not hard if you’ve done it before. The rest was simple. Steeping the walnuts and cream added a lovely aroma to the house and the ice cream machine did all the work! Not like your old fashioned hand crank operation. (Thanks Emily for letting me borrow it!) We tried the ice cream before it was hard and before adding the sauce and it was delicious. Nutty, toasty, with a really smooth texture.
I let it sit in the freezer for a couple of days until I could muster up the courage to make this tomato caramel sauce. It was probably the scariest thing I have ever cooked on the stove top. Just imagining the temperature of the bubbling sugar made me really nervous… deciphering whether or not the sauce was “tawny” enough in color… adding the tomato juice causing a small explosion of candy and liquid in the pan! whew! In the end it was good. I had no idea whether or not it would get thick so I left it in the pyrex and went out to dinner. We came home to find the sauce had thickened and retained its pretty reddish color. It smelled nice – and tomato-y and still I was nervous to drizzle it on top. My husband told me earlier in the week when we tasted the ice cream by itself that he did not want any tomato sauce to ruin good ice cream, but in the end I think he was convinced. A friend had stopped by that night for a little while so I had her join in the taste test. I think we were all really surprised how good it turned out. It had a really unique flavor that is quite hard to describe. The tomato sauce accentuated the nuttiness of the cream well – a perfect pairing. Now I just need to find another use for the leftover sauce!
This is definitely not an attempt to get something healthy into the diet by adding tomato (reading the ingredient list will convince you of this) – but if you find yourself with tons of tomatoes this summer give it a try – you might be as surprised as we were.

Walnut Ice Cream with Brandywine Caramel Sauce

Serves 6-8

The ice cream and sauce are very rich, so you will want small servings.


The Ice cream

1 cup walnuts

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup + 6 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup powdered milk

1 cup whole milk

7 egg yolks

The sauce

1 small Brandywine tomato

1 cup sugar

Instructions: For the ice cream: Preheat oven to 325° (300° for convection oven). Place nuts on a pan, then toast until dark and golden, 15-20 minutes. Let cool, then grind until fine in a food processor.

In a saucepan, heat the cream and 1/2 cup sugar to just below the boiling point. Add the ground nuts and let steep at room temperature for at least an hour, or until a strong walnut flavor has permeated the cream. Pour through a coarse strainer into a large plastic bowl, then pour again through a fine-mesh strainer such as a chinois into another large plastic bowl.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, mix 6 tablespoons sugar with the powdered milk, and slowly add the whole milk, whisking constantly until the powdered milk is dissolved. Place over high heat until it’s just below the boiling point.

Place yolks in a large bowl. Add a ladleful of the hot milk mixture to the yolks and mix well. Add about a third of the hot milk to the bowl with the yolks and stir. Pour the contents of the bowl into the pot with the milk and cook for another 30 seconds or so, until the milk begins to steam.

Remove from heat and pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into the walnut-infused cream. Cover and chill until completely cold, 3 hours or overnight.

Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

For the caramel sauce: Cut the tomato into large pieces and process in a blender or small food processor until smooth. Pass through a fine-mesh strainer. Measure out 1/2 cup puree; set aside any extra.

Combine 1/4 cup water and the sugar into a broad, heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir until sugar dissolves. Cook over high heat until the sugar is a tawny golden color. Turn off the heat and add the tomato puree. Do this carefully and step back in case of any of it splatters.

When the foaming eruption has subsided, stir the caramel mixture with a wire whisk, turning the flame back on if necessary, until all of the candy threads have melted into the caramel. Remove from heat and let cool. Taste for tomato flavor intensity and add any extra puree, if desired.

Serve the ice cream drizzled with the caramel sauce.


6 thoughts on “Walnut Ice Cream + Tomato Sauce

  1. It definitely sounded scary, but I was just too curious to resist and I was definitely rewarded for my bravery. 🙂 It was soooo good! Christina, you are a master!

  2. I don't think that sounds bad at all – in fact, I think it sounds delish. Much like strawberry and balsamic gelatto. I will have to try this! Homemade ice cream is one of our favorite things!

  3. If you like the strawberry and balsamic ice cream I think you will love this one! you are totally right about the relationships. The tomato and nut flavors go so well together. I really need to get an ice cream maker so we can do this more often!

  4. Pingback: Ice Cream Month Continued… | The Lovely Lady Baker

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