I don’t know who decided to fry the first green tomato – but I’m glad they did! Credited with strictly Southern roots, a quick bit of investigative research indicates that recipes date back as far and the mid to late 1800s, several from Jewish and Kosher cookbooks, too. The popularity of this crunchy summer favorite, however, soared with the popularity of Fanny Flagg’s novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and later the movie of the (abbreviated) same name in the late 1980’s. Since then chefs around the country, and perhaps the world, cleverly continue put innovative spins on the basic batter, bread and brown technique.
Anyway you fry it, do try this fabulous summer treat before the seasons end.
As I write this, it is August in the Carolina’s and ’tis the season for the late harvest of red ripe juicy tomatoes. But before these gems turn red, they’re firm and green and equally delicious to their red ripened counterparts. As is the case for ripe and heirloom tomatoes of all sorts, the best place to buy green tomatoes is from a local farmer and any local farmers market – or you could grow them yourself, but I have found over a long period of summer growing seasons, that I am much better cooking with tomatoes than growing them) so I am happy to rely on the harvest of local farms and farmers with greener thumbs than mine to stock my tomato larder.
The tomatoes photographed for this blog post and for the Charlotte Today television segment with which these recipes coordinate came from Tega Hills farms in Ft.Mill SC and Black’s Peaches in York SC – always most important, I think, to Shop Local so you can Eat Local.
This week I cooked with Local South Carolina green tomatoes, pairing them with ripe red tomatoes, Fishing Creek Creamery Goat cheese from Chester South Carolina and Clemson Blue Cheese from Clemson South Carolina as well. If you’d like to see the video presentation from this week’s WCNC Charlotte Today broadcast, click here: then come back for all the details, recipes and more.
Of course green tomatoes aren’t just for frying, cut them and toss in spices and vinegar to make your own house pickles, season with salt and pepper to use in place or in addition to cucumbers; or scoop out, stuff and bake as you would bell peppers.
Three Ways, and then some, to serve Summer Fried Green Tomatoes
FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
By Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto
2-3 local firm green tomatoes, thick sliced
organic All Purpose Flour
2-3 local or organic eggs
dry seasoned bread crumbs
canola oil or your favorite Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Dip each slice of tomato first into the flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs. The secret is to allow the battered and breaded green tomatoes to rest on a wire rack, for at least a minute or two before you fry. This time allows the egg, flour and bread crumbs to firm up around the tomato and create a bond that will not come off in the hot oil. To fry the breaded green tomatoes traditionally, Heat about ½ inch of oil in a sauté pan or frying pan using wooden spoon test
To test to see if the oil is hot enough for frying, place a wooden spoon in the pan of oil. As the oil heats, little bubbles will form around the edge of the spoon just as they would if a piece of food were in the pan frying – when you see the little bubbles, the oil is hot enough to fry.
To fry with less fat, use a non stick pan and coat lightly with a flavorful olive oil. Brown as you sould in the greater amount of oil.
When the oil is hot, put the breaded tomato slices in, cooking just until brown. Remove from oil and drain on several thicknesses of paper towels.
Lots of ways to serve – with pimento cheese and red ripe tomatoes for a stack; with watermelon, local goat cheese and arugula for a late summer salad; in a Parmesan casserole as you would fried eggplant or chicken; cut into Fried Green Tomato croutons to top a ripe tomato salad; or with the bacon jam recipe found below, layered with local lettuce and slices of ripe tomato for an innovative BLT.
For another variation on the theme, spread sliced green tomatoes with soft local goat cheese. Refrigerate to keep firm. Coat and bread the cheese and tomato “stack” as you would just the tomatoes in the Master Recipe.
Serve drizzled with Balsamic vinegar and enjoy this last taste of the summer season!
The perfect Fried Green tomato condiment:
Bacon and Local Pepper Marmalade
Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto
1¼ pounds sliced bacon, diced
2 local onions, finely chopped
2 organic carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 organic celery stalks, finely chopped
1-3 sliced local jalapenos or hot peppers
2¼ cups North Carolina apple or South Carolina peach cider
⅓ cup red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. local molasses ( my favorite by far is from Harrell Hill Farms in Bakersville, NC)
1 tablespoon fresh or dried thyme or savory leaves, roughly chopped
Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the chopped bacon and cook until browned, stirring often, for 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions, carrots and celery and sliced Jalapenos, cooking until the vegetables are tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Pour in the cider and the vinegar, increase the heat to high and cook until the liquid is thick, 7 to 8 minutes.
Stir in the molasses, cooking until the bacon looks glazed, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and move the skillet to a cool burner. Stir in the thyme leaves and cool to room temperature.
Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.