Going green ... tomatoes


Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 25, 2013 at 2:19 p.m.

As Southern as cheese grits and beaten biscuits, fried green tomatoes can be found on menus from little hole-in-the-wall Dixie diners to top-rated American restaurants. Battered or coated, they are most often served as an appetizer with remoulade sauce or on toasted bread as an addition to a BLT. But have you ever had green tomatoes served any other way?

These unripened tomatoes, most often beefsteak or cluster varieties, have a tangy taste that is perfect served raw in salads and sandwiches or cooked into chutneys, pickles and pies, using vinegars, sugars and spices to play up the green tomato's natural tang.

While frugal Southern cooks coated thick-cut slices with cornmeal and fried them to create a legend, others called upon their British heritage and used green tomatoes as filler to turn a small batch of apples into a large batch of mincemeat. Some pie makers found the tang of the green tomato similar to sour apples and used peeled, sliced tomatoes to make mock apple pie with all the same sweeteners and spices as traditional apple pie.

Have you ever made chutney? In just a couple of hours you can have sweet and spicy Green Tomato Chutney. Think of it as more than an accompaniment to curry. The spicy blend of sweet and savory is perfect served with a cheese platter, on bruschetta with feta and walnuts, or spread onto seafood or meat during the last minutes of cooking.

Need more ideas for all those green tomatoes? Layer thin slices on a pizza and top with an aged hard cheese. Mix chunks into curries, stews or stir fries at the last minute to add crunch and color. Combine with tomatillos and green chilies to make a spectacular green enchilada sauce.

Or get back to basics in a fun new form — Baked Green Tomato Lollipops. Because these are oven-baked, not fried, you get all the flavor without all the mess, yet the panko still crunches when you take that first bite! These are spectacular as an appetizer or a special treat at your next picnic or barbecue.

Recipes

Baked Green Tomato Lollipops

Serves 6-12

2 eggs

2 tablespoons water

2 cups panko crumbs

1/2 cup finely grated parmesan

1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

4-5 green tomatoes, 3 inch diameter

Kosher salt for garnish

Soak 16 small bamboo skewers in warm water. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil two cookie sheets.

Beat eggs with water in a shallow bowl. Set aside.

Mix together panko, parmesan and pepper in a shallow dish or pie plate. Set aside.

Wash and dry tomatoes. Slice off top and bottom. Cut tomatoes into circular 1/2-inch slices.

Run bamboo skewer through tomato, just like a lollipop, until point protrudes just slightly.

Dip both sides of each tomato slice first into the egg wash and then immediately into the panko mixture. Place on cookie sheet in one layer. Repeat until all tomato slices are covered.

Bake 10 minutes, remove from oven and use a spatula to flip each slice. Bake an additional 7-10 minutes, until lightly browned on both sides.

Remove from cookie sheet to serving platter. Sprinkle lightly with kosher or other large-grained salt. Serve immediately.

Green Tomato Chutney

Makes 2 to 3 cups

1 teaspoon brown mustard seed

1 teaspoon coriander seed

1 teaspoon fennel seed

8 cardamom pods

6-7 medium green tomatoes, about 6 cups finely chopped

1 cup finely chopped red onion

1/2 cup raisins, chopped

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon each cloves and allspice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, loosely packed

In a large pot over medium heat, toast the mustard, coriander and fennel seeds with the cardamom pods. When fragrant, remove from pot and set aside to cool.

Combine remaining ingredients in the same pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

Remove each cardamom pod's outer covering and discard. Crush cardamom with other seeds in a mortar and pestle or with the back of a spoon. Add crushed spices to green tomato mixture and stir well.

Reduce heat and simmer chutney uncovered for 60-90 minutes, stirring occasionally. The liquid will thicken and the green tomato will soften and turn brown. Cook to desired thickness.

You can either process it in sterilized jars or refrigerate for 3 to 6 months.

Traditional Fried Green Tomatoes with Classic Rémoulade

Serves 4-8

4 green tomatoes, sliced into 1/2-inch thick circles

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 eggs

2 tablespoons water

1 cup cornmeal

Dash salt and black or cayenne pepper

1/4-1/2 cup olive oil

In a shallow bowl (pie plates work well for this) mix flour with seasonings as desired. Set aside.

In another shallow bowl, beat eggs with water until completely mixed. Set aside.

In a third bowl, mix cornmeal with seasonings as desired. Set aside.

Preheat oil in one or two large cast iron or heavy skillets over medium heat. Oil should shimmer when heated.

Working quickly with one tomato slice at a time, first completely cover both sides of each slice in seasoned flour and shake off excess. Immediately dip both sides into egg wash and then in cornmeal. Place cornmeal-covered slice into hot oil and repeat until all slices are covered and frying in oil.

If the timing is right, you should be able to begin turning slices after the last one goes in. Cook each slice about 5 minutes on each side. When golden on both sides, remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Serve hot. Drizzle with rémoulade if desired.

Rémoulade

Makes about 3/4 cup

1/2 cup mayonnaise (full fat Hellman's or homemade)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chervil, chives and tarragon in any combination)

1 tablespoon each drained capers and sweet pickle relish

1/8 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)

Mix all until completely combined. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour to allow flavors to develop.

To serve, drizzle about 1/2- to 1 teaspoon of sauce over each serving of fried green tomatoes.

Cover and refrigerate leftovers.

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