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September 2013

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Starving Artists in the Kitchen--sneak preview!

 


Guilty Seasonal Pleasures–

Fried Green Tomatoes!


We’ve said this series would be healthful, frugal, and delicious...and hey, two outta three ain’t bad!  Fried green tomatoes are a pleasure of my childhood, a delightful, nostalgic and savory vegetable that lets me enjoy the last of the tomatoes before the frost (if I can wait that long!).

I’ve been eating these delightful late-season vegetables for 50 years, and enjoying every bite. They’re mostly a Southern and Midwestern treat, so I’m told, and they’ve certainly been part of my family’s repertoire in the kitchen since we came over the Appalachians on horseback!

If you’ve ever read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, a poignant and funny novel by Fannie Flagg, or seen the movie that it spawned–naturally, called Fried Green Tomatoes–you have some idea of the mystique involved here.

I’ve introduced my husband to these old-fashioned goodies and now he craves them as much as I do! I’ve cooked them over an open fire for friends, and hooked a whole new generation on my family tradition.

They’re not easy to get, unless you can grow your own. My garden area has gotten so shady the tomatoes refused to set, last time I tried. You won’t find them at your supermarket (unless you’re in certain areas in the South, at any rate!) I’ve begged the people at the local farmers’ market to bring some in for me, but usually they forget, or swear no one will buy them if they do. I’ve asked my oldest friend if I could have some green ones from their garden and she said “We don’t PICK them green!!”

Turned out she was horrified by the whole idea...

Some years I have to do without, but oh my, THIS year. The family celebrates birthdays together, and we’re trying to keep it simple and affordable–so I said that all I really wanted was some fried green tomatoes...

My eldest godchild Ann--she who shot the photo of us that I used in the banner, above--came through for me, in spades! A glorious bag full of heritage tomatoes, all ready to slice and fry...and then my cousin Keith chimed in and said we could come pick some from his garden, all we had to do was ask. You better believe I asked!! And while they were off on vacation and not needing to pick their garden, we helped ourselves to a few extras to extend the season...delicious!

Look for firm green tomatoes–if they’ve begun to get soft they’ll be difficult to slice and they may fall apart in cooking. For the two of us, 3 or 4 smallish green tomatoes are plenty.

Some people use an egg batter, some dip in egg and then flour, some like cornmeal, some dredge in breadcrumbs, some mix seasoned breadcrumbs and flour...it’s up to you.  (Or your grandma's recipe...) This last batch I sliced thin–less than a quarter of an inch lets them get crispy–and just used seasoned, unbleached flour. (If you have a wheat allergy you could experiment with cornstarch, cornmeal, rice flour, soy flour, or whatever you usually use.)

I fry ours in a mixture of healthful canola or olive oil and--OMG--a bit of bacon grease for down-home flavor. So shoot me!

And of course, if we refer to my cooking method as “sautéing”rather than the dread “frying,” then of course it’s perfectly healthy and acceptable, at least according to a diet group I once belonged to!

So we’ll just forget the F-word for now (that would be “fried”...)

Heat the oil in a heavy iron skillet, if you have one, carefully place the thin, dredged slides of tomato in it, sauté till brown, turn them and do the other side, drain on paper towels to get most of the, er, oil out, season with sea salt and fresh-ground pepper, if you like, and enjoy!

Why “guilty seasonal pleasure” when talking about a vegetable? There's some controversy about these vegetables, though mostly I found recipes and references online saying they're good for you.  But the fact is that tomatoes are nightshade family members. Your arthritis may complain, as mine does when I eat too many tomatoes–ripe or green!–or potatoes, as far as that goes. 

Oh well. Caveat emptor!  Family tradition and taste buds are satisfied for another year, and I’m willing to suffer a bit.

Note:

If you’ve got more than bounty you can deal with, green tomatoes make fantastic chutney, relish, or yes, even ripe tomatoes if you bring ‘em in before the frost and let them ripen, either in the basement (some people pull them vines and all before the frost, and lay them on newspapers), the kitchen window, or in the fridge for slow ripening.


(And yes, I had to hurry this one in so this may not be the place you'll find us in the future--the season's about over, and we had our first hard frost last night.  Couldn't wait to share it with you!)

Comments

Lovely post, Kate! it made me smile.
I have a question: how do you know when to pick them? Here in the desert it's a bit different, because they will ripen right up to the first frost. It's in the 80s and then wham, a frost hits. I don't want to pick them too early when I could have red tomatoes instead...
But thanks for the cooking tips! FGT (if KFC can do this... ;-) are not a part of my heritage and even though I have seen the movie, I was fairly clueless as to how to prepare them. My husband is Asian, so we always have tempura batter around. That might be a nice way to try as well.
The illustration is lovely too, but that goes without saying. :-)
Thank you, Muriel! I think tempura batter would be WONDERFUL.

They need to be green and quite firm...if they've started to get soft, they're getting ripe inside and are more difficult to fry, even battered.

And yes, you have to be motivated, to give up the chance of ripe ones...but then I like fried green tomatoes even more, so I have to have at least one batch a year, if I can. When I could grow them here, I just sacrificed a couple of green ones to the craving...

Edited at 2008-10-29 12:40 am (UTC)

(Anonymous)

I never dreamed these were anything but Southern, but I guess they moved westward like your forbears! I think of them as an early season dish, as they are here, but, you know, all tomatoes are green at some point, so I guess it makes sense that you could eat them late season, too!
Great recipe!
Xoox
Laura
Thank you, sweet thing! I always TRY to wait, but if I have tomatoes available, early season works just fine for me!

I'm always surprised at the people who DON'T know about them. One of my friends grew up in the Ozarks, where I would have thought he'd know all about them. I introduced him to them!

(Anonymous)

Healthier Green Tomatoes

Hey, Kate, my mom made fried green tomatoes for years and then she got a George Foreman grill. She now grills the tomatoes and just about any other veggie that can be thin sliced!

I don't know her recipe, but if you're at all interested, I can ask. It's probably not going to satisfy your craving like fried, but it should save you a few cholesterol points!!

Laure

Re: Healthier Green Tomatoes

Wow, I'll be that is GOOD. Of course I'd like the recipe, please!

(Anonymous)

Re: Healthier Green Tomatoes

Sorry for the delay in getting the recipe back to you!

Mom's recipe:
Take your veggie and slice thin
If desired coat with flour (but not necessary)
Heat George Foreman to 400 degrees
Coat both sides of veggies with a cooking spray like Pam
Add salt and pepper to taste
Place veggies on grill (length of time depends on veggie and thickness)
Remove when tender

Other veggies to try: squash, green pepper, zuchini, eggplant, onions

She prefers them without the flour, but does it both ways.

Hope this helps!

Re: Healthier Green Tomatoes

Yes, thank you! We don't own a grill of that type any more, but I'm thinking the little charcoal grill might work too...

I've got a sprayer that sprays olive oil (or anything else you put in it, of course!) that might work well instead of Pam!
They sound delicious. I am afraid to say that I won't be trying them, though, as tomato seeds/skins are yet another food that I have to avoid. :( I am okay with passata (strained tomatoes) in an Italian sauce like bolognese but this would probably make my tum very unhappy (but my taste-buds very happy)! ;-p
Oh dear, sounds like my mother-in-law! We really have to watch the skins and seeds of anything when we cook out in California!
Yeah - I used to be fine with most of the foods that I cannot eat now (except Chilli) - as I have got older I can eat less and less (even though I am "only" 41 - the MS etc. make me feel 90 sometimes)…
I can imagine! That SO stinks...

(Anonymous)

OH YUMMMMM

This is going to be an instance winner, Kate! I can see publishing this too -- LOVE LOVE the illustrations and recipes!!! GO GO GO!!!

Lin

Re: OH YUMMMMM

Thank you, Miss Lin! It IS a lot of fun...
This was the first year that I didn't put in a garden and guess what was the thing I missed most? Yup. Fried green tomatoes! They take a LONG time to ripen here in the frozen north so I don't feel TOO bad snarfing a few (or ten) as an early treat. You've got my mouth watering now...
LOL! Yep, that's what I miss, too--other things I can get at the farmers' market, but not that...

(Anonymous)

Oh this sounds so delicious, I have never had them - unfortunately we have had a frost too - but I will try fried green tomatoes some day now for Sure!! I am looking forward to your newest site!
I hope you like them! I'm addicted... ;-)

(Anonymous)

To me, tomatoes belong well-ripened although I wouldn't mind trying these. I had a love affair with one of those tabletop fryers till I made myself sick with it. I don't know about tomatoes or potatoes bothering arthritis but too much fat does and I waaaay overdid it cooking just about everything I could coat in flour, eggs and crumbs. My favorite items are zuchinni, fresh mushrooms and green beans. Oh, and onion rings too. Fried veggies taste sooo good I'd probably love green tomatoes so I don't even dare try (not that I'd find any where I live anyhow).

This sounds like you are going to be doing quite well with your new idea.
Oh, I love a good vine-ripened tomato, too!

I wouldn't dare get one of those little deep-fryers...I'd do the same thing you did. ;-)

I hope the new blog series does well--it's sort of my contribution to health and well-being!