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Ingredients for 6 1/2 cup ramekins or gratin dishes:

1 pound tomatoes

1/4 cup water

1/2 vanilla bean, split (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)

1/3 cup sugar plus 6 tablespoons

1 1/2 cups whipping cream

6 large egg yolks, lightly beaten


Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Core and cut up the tomatoes.  Place them in a saucepan with water and bring to a simmer.  Cover the pan and cook slowly for 15 minutes.  Put the tomatoes and juices through a food mill to remove skin and seeds.  You will have about 2 cups tomato puree. Add the vanilla bean and reduce by half over medium high heat, stirring regularly.

Remove the vanilla bean, pour the concentrated tomato puree to a bowl and stir in 1/3 cup sugar.  Sir in the whipping cream and egg yolks.  Strain the custard into a clean bowl. Add vanilla extract if you have not used a bean. Divide the custard among 8 1/2 cup ramekins or 6 shallow gratin dishes.

Place dishes on a bake sheet, and bake until the surface is set, 25 minutes for the gratins; 45 for the ramekins.  Cool the molds on a rack, cover them and refrigerate until chilled.  Divide the remaining sugar among the dishes and caramelize it with a small propane torch or under a broiler flame.  Serve immediately.