Everything in the garden has a season. Most often just when we are entirely sick of one vegetable, another begins to ripen, giving us a change for a while until we are sick of that one too. Some we never get tired of eating and they are gone all too soon, like peas and strawberries, but others come in hard and fast, in abundance, and we have to eat them, freeze them, pickle or jar them, or just give them away as fast as we can. Take green beans, for instance. We have been eating radishes, lettuces, kale and cucumbers for weeks now, and I have been watching the delicate purple flowers of the beans develop anxiously. Haricot verts thinner than a cu-tip, lightly steamed and gobbled up with just a touch of salt are simply divine. But in just a few days of picking I start to notice the ones I missed on the first few rounds are now the size of a pencil, and no longer bright green but dusky and even purplish. I sweep through the bean patch, picking everything I see, and haul in about 3 gallons of beans. Some we eat fresh. Some we pickle. Some we freeze. The next day….more beans. Ugh! But I know there is an end in sight, and I’ll be happy to use the ones I put up in soups and salads throughout the long months of winter. Today, though, I’m sick of beans.
Not so tomatoes. I could eat a fresh tomato every day of my life and be a happy person for it. Anyone who has had a tomato fresh out of someones garden, still warm from the afternoon sun, knows there is little resemblance to a store bought tomato. The abundance of flavor, the fresh tangy sweetness and juicy texture; It’s as good as a fresh peach, and each summer we wait and wait for the tomatoes to ripen. We eat the best ones fresh with sea salt, or a bit of good balsamic vinegar glaze, and the rest, the ones marred by bugs, rot, or blemishes, go into the freezer. We never seem to have enough to last throughout the winter, and each summer, as the beautiful fruits get larger and begin to ripen on the vine I wonder, Should I pick them yet?
The dilemma is this. If I pick them green, they won’t get to ripen into the luscious red fruits that I love. If I don’t pick them green, I won’t get to have fried green tomatoes.
Fried Green Tomatoes are traditionally thought to be deeply southern dish and one I had never tried until my (Italian) mother in law decided to grow a garden. The recipe’s inclusion in cookbooks actually date back to the early 1830’s in the United States and are possibly of Jewish origin, first seen in the Midwest. In any case they are prepared throughout the US and everyone who has tried them know they are well worth the effort. In the end, I picked!
FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
4 Green hard tomatoes
1/2 cup milk
approximately 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs or cornmeal, seasoned with salt and pepper
Remoulade to serve
Slice the tomatoes into 1/4 inch thick rounds, slicing off and discarding the top and bottoms (the breadcrumbs don’t stick to them) Mix the egg and milk together with a whisk. Heat a cast iron skillet to medium heat and add about a 1/4 inch of oil. Dip the tomatoes in the egg mixture and coat them with the breadcrumbs.
Fry the tomatoes in a single layer, flipping once when the breadcrumbs turn nicely brown. Drain on paper towels and keep in a warm oven. Serve with a remoulade of your choice. I made mine from mayonnaise, catsup, lemon juice and tabasco. Enjoy!