Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fried Green Tomatoes!

Since I's the original Fried Green Tomatoes post 
from 2008!

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’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.


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!)


And this year, I have two green tomatoes from our CSA!  Yum....

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