November 10th, 2010

Green Tomato Madness

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I have told you all about my friend Maggie and her place out in the country, where I take carefree breaks from my city ways to hang in her kitchen, drink coffee, visit, and cook. On a given day, we might bake bread, or stir up a pot of gumbo, or can tomatoes, or fix a grand salad, using her garden’s finest. All, I should note, with splendid results.

This time was a little different. I know, everything looks pretty nice in the picture. But, things went a bit mad, green tomato mad.

It was unintentional, this madness. Our initial plan had been to cook with pears harvested from her craggy, fruit laden tree–perhaps we would make pear butter, or pear butter coffeecake.

But, this fall had odd weather, super warm in September and October, and Maggie’s tomato plants had an unexpected resurgence. They were covered, almost as much as they were in summer, with fruit. When her husband Steve learned that a hard freeze was coming, he hastened to the garden to gather what he could. He returned with a 10 gallon bucket, piled with all manner and size of green tomatoes.

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So, outside of breading them in cornmeal and frying them crisp, what do you do with 10 gallons of green tomatoes?

Maggie and I decided to find out.

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Some ‘net surfing turned up ideas for charred green tomato salsa, green tomato ketchup, and green tomato cake. A few recipes called for slicing, salting, and sweating the tomatoes to remove excess water. Other recipes called for tying the slices up in cheesecloth, and letting them drain overnight.

Needless to say, this notion was rejected.

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We plunged headlong into green tomato projects, making things up as we proceeded. It would be some time later before certain aspects of a green tomato’s nature would be revealed.

We oven-roasted green tomatoes, jalapenos, garlic, and onions to a char for salsa.

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While those cooled, we chopped more tomatoes for the bundt cake, and improvised a quickbread style recipe, not unlike ones that you use for, say, carrot cakes, or zucchini cakes.

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Maggie had a small bundt pan. So, we used the excess batter for muffins. The muffins, we thought, would be our afternoon snack with coffee. Then, we turned our attention to the task of the green tomato ketchup.

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Whoa. We quickly cleaned, cored, and quartered a mighty mound, and tossed them into a big pot. For spicing, we used the same ingredients–cinnamon stick, whole clove, and allspice– as I had for my Real Red Ketchup.

At one point, Maggie surveyed the counters, covered with cake pans and batter, vinegars and spices, food mill parts, canning jars, and then the cauldron of green gurgling on the stove and said, “I feel like we’re mad scientists and this is our laboratory.”

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And, like any good mad scientists, we recognized that cooking in this manner was very experimental. And, our green tomato experiment yielded mixed results.

Our Assessments:
1. Charred Green Tomato Salsa: This had terrific heat and tangy flavor, not unlike tomatillo, which it resembled also in texture– that gelatinous mouth feel, the kind you notice, at times, with cooked eggplant. We decided that this would be better as a sauce baked over enchiladas.

2. There was likely a good reason to salt and drain the green tomatoes in advance. Our ketchup did not get as thick as we would have liked. The taste was surprisingly good, pretty ketchup-y, really. There was something visually jarring about the color. Close your eyes when you taste it.

3.Green tomatoes need to be chopped very very finely for the bundt cake. Or, pulse them in a food processor. When the muffins were warm, the larger pieces of green tomato were fine—they reminded me of apple, in a way–but as the muffins cooled, the pieces became weird, a little unpleasant–that same gelatinous texture thing. Otherwise, we gave this cake a thumbs-up. I’ve given you the recipe, with the appropriate remedies.

4. It’s always a good idea to find clever ways to use what you’ve got. (Think–there have been thousands and thousands of farm women who had bushels of green tomatoes and little else to work with.)

5. Mad or not, kitchen experiments are fun. And, we welcome any green tomato tips, tricks, or recipes! Suggestions?

GREEN TOMATO BUNDT CAKE
2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 t. Salt
1 t. Baking Soda
1/2 t. Cinnamon
1/2 t. Allspice
1/4 t. Clove
1/4 t. Black Pepper
2 Eggs
1 c. Brown Sugar
3 c. Green Tomatoes, chopped very finely
1/2 c. Buttermilk
1/2 c. Canola Oil
1 c. chopped Walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Measure and sift dry ingredients together.
Whisk eggs and brown sugar together. Stir in buttermilk and oil, then tomatoes. Stir in dry ingredients and walnuts. Pour into greased and floured bundt pan.

Bake 50-60 minutes. Allow to cool, and remove. Dust with powdered sugar.

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Beautiful collection! Maggie is ready for winter.

Posted in Breads, Recipes, Sauces | 28 Comments »




September 16th, 2009

Fried Green Tomato Stack with Shrimp

Sad but inevitable, about this time every year tomato fatigue sets in.

For weeks now, with markets and gardens glutted, I’ve cooked and eaten ripe, juicy tomatoes in countless delicious ways. So much so that when I look at the sea of red baskets at our farmers market or the one that happens to be sitting on my counter, brimming with those picked from my own garden, I feel……….worn out.

And maybe a wee bit guilty. I mean, in a few short weeks, the Tomato Time will be over.

For now, with plants still producing, (although less prolific, as daylight shrinks, temperatures cool) it’s time to switch to the Green.

There’s something special about fried green tomatoes that I did not come to appreciate until recent years. When fried, what appears to be firm and without flavor, softens and releases a tangy citrus essence. A surprise with bite! The salty crackle of cornmeal batter is a splendid complement.

Of course, they are tasty on their own, but if you don’t want to eat just fried food—–

Here’s a late summer salad that uses the fried green wonder as its centerpiece. It layers pungent heat from mature arugula and horseradish with the sweetness of green tomatoes and shrimp.

I had gotten peppery hot rocket leaves from Drury Farms to form the salad base. Horseradish cream sauce tops the stack of fried ‘maters, performing double duty as a foil for the lemon-poached shrimp. All the elements work together brightly to create a fresh, satisfying meal.

Without fatigue.

Sliced, these green tomatoes look very pretty.



A little flour lightens the cornmeal coating. A simple soak in buttermilk is all the slices need.

Fried Green Tomatoes
1 cup Cornmeal
¼ cup All Purpose Flour
Salt
Cayenne
Black Pepper

1 cup Buttermilk

Firm, green tomatoes, sliced 1/4 “ thick

Vegetable oil (like canola oil) for frying

Mix cornmeal well with flour and seasonings.
Dip tomato slices into buttermilk, then dredge in cornmeal mixture.
Heat skillet and add vegetable oil. Test for and fry tomato slices about 2-4 minutes per side—until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Horseradish Cream Sauce
1 cup Sour cream
½ cup Good Mayo (Hellmann’s or Duke’s)
2 heaping Tablespoons Horseradish
1 teaspoon fresh Lemon juice
½ teaspoon Louisiana Hot Sauce
½ teaspoon Salt
Pinch Cayenne

Whisk all the ingredients together until well blended. Taste for horseradish and add more if necessary. Keeps refrigerated for at least 2 weeks.

Poached Gulf Shrimp

½ lb. shrimp (this will serve 2-3, I used a 21-26ct.shrimp)

Poaching Liquid:
To 2 quarts of water add:
A few slices of Onion
1-2 sliced Garlic cloves
1 Bay Leaf
a few slices Lemon
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
½ teaspoon Celery Seed,
½ teaspoon Black Pepper
¼ teaspoon Red Pepper flakes

Bring poaching liquid to a rolling boil, plunge in shrimp. Cook for 3-4 minutes and remove from heat. Peel, devein, and chill shrimp.

The Assembly
On a salad plate, place bed of mixed greens or arugula.
Stack fried green tomato slices. Dollop with Horseradish Cream.
Place shrimp on top of the horseradish sauce.
Garnish with lemon slices, and serve.

Posted in Fish/Seafood, Recipes, Salads, Vegetables | 9 Comments »