Off the vine and into the fry pan — fried green tomatoes
Green tomatoes are delicious — fried.
Updated: August 15, 2012 2:19PM
We all know a few green-thumbed folks —overall-clad bearers of hyper-local produce.
These urban farmers will call you up begging to unload an overabundance of green beans flourishing in their vegetable patch. Or, they sheepishly deliver an armload of pristine baby beets they’ve grown themselves on their postage-stamp-sized lots.
I relish in these personal produce deliveries. They can change a dinner menu in an instant. And what meal isn’t improved by a little decidedly local flavor?
Last week my neighbor and reluctant, but undeniably successful, vegetable gardener gifted me several green tomatoes.
I always try to bring out the best in foods folks have grown and given to me because their efforts deserve to be respected, but these little buggers were more than a little wary to ripen off the vine.
Environmentally, things have to be pretty close to perfect to ripen a tomato and the extraordinarily hot summer temperatures this year are working against local tomato growers big time. When temperatures soar into the upper 80s, tomato plants stop generating color-producing chemicals. Pulling the fruit off the vine before they rot is a simple way to ensure they won’t go to waste. A green tomato, however, isn’t necessarily a welcome addition to an everyday green salad and require a little extra kitchen love.
What to do?
You know. You’ve seen the movie, too.
Fried green tomatoes are the perfect recipe solution to a common garden quandary. Southerners have coaxed flavor out of tart under-ripened green tomatoes forever and the combination of a shatteringly crisp coating and firm sour fruit smack of summer when executed properly. Taking care to slice the tomatoes uniformly and selecting a coating suitable for quick frying ensures fried green tomatoes will be a textural revelation.
I choose to arrange hot fried green tomatoes among slices of cool raw red tomatoes to further enhance the inherent contrasts in the dish. Hints of cumin, cilantro and fresh salsa lend a little Latin flair to this southern classic, but anyway you spice it fried green tomatoes will change how you feel about your garden harvest.
Easy Fried Green Tomato Salad
Rather than risk a soggy crust, I opted to use crushed corn flakes to coat my tomato slices because I had them on hand, but Japanese panko breadcrumbs could be substituted in this recipe.
2 large green tomatoes, sliced into ¼-inch thick rounds
1½ cup flour
2 cups corn flakes cereal, crushed
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon onion powder
salt and pepper
canola oil for frying
2 red ripe tomatoes, sliced into ¼-inch thick rounds
½ cup fresh salsa (store bought or homemade)
Sliced scallions and cilantro sprigs
Set up a three-step breading process: place the flour in a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Crack the eggs in to another shallow bowl, season with salt and pepper; beat well. In a third bowl mix the crushed cereal, cumin, onion powder, salt and pepper to taste.
Heat 1 inch of oil in a large skillet until a piece of bread sizzles on contact. Meanwhile, coat the green tomato slices in the seasoned flour and shake off the excess. Coat the tomatoes with the beaten egg and press each side into the seasoned crushed cereal.
Fry the coated tomatoes in the hot oil for 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown. Reduce heat if coating browns too quickly; the tomatoes should be tender on the inside, but just golden brown on the outside. Drain the fried green tomatoes on paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
Arrange the fried green tomatoes between the sliced red tomatoes. Top the dish with salsa, scallions and cilantro sprigs. Adjust seasoning and serve immediately.
Melissa Elsmo is an Oak Park mom, wife and chef/foodie. She speaks regularly about reclaiming the family dinner hour with nutritious meals. Check out her food blog at www.outofmelskitchen.blogspot.com.