Vegetables, yarn, and yarns: all of my passions all in one place.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Baked "Fried" Green Tomatoes (with accompanying omelet)

So, it happened. Finally, I get those first red tomatoes, those bright, shiny fire-engine beauties I've been waiting for since I shelled out the two-bucks-a-pop for tomato cages this spring. I recall clearly walking briskly back and forth between the tomato tables at the greenhouse (partly from excitement and partly because I had a cup of tea right before I left the apartment and I really had to pee). I read those little cards about each variety of plant, absent-mindedly stroking each tiny leaf. This one has low acidity. That one will be yellow with pink stripes. These over here, they bloom early.

The early-bloomers started to turn a few weeks ago, and I picked one early and watched it turn full-on purple-red on my mother's kitchen window ledge. The rest were a while in coming though. Admittedly, the events that are about to be described happened last week. In my tumult of over-booked activity, I have accrued a large stack of recipes next to the computer, taunting me with their unblogged-about smugness.

We were at the garden, a small plot at the far right corner of an episcopal churchyard. I was weeding. Art was watering. Garet, due to some strange juvenile need to be squirrelly, was planting a pine cone happily into the dirt beside a copse of coniferous trees... or at least, he called it a pine cone. That's when I spotted it: the first red Beefsteak. Eagerly, one-handed, I plucked the tender fruit from its vine and snap, the two adjacent green tomatoes beside it came too. I held them up mournfully to Art, and then, in a sudden spark of genius, I announced, "I could make fried green tomatoes."

Fried Green Tomatoes. It's a movie title I know well. In my youth, I was blessed with very overprotective parents who did not allow the viewing of movies until you had reached the age deemed appropriate for viewing by whatever lunatic organization that rates movies. My siblings and I contented ourselves with the meager movie options by repeatedly watching beloved movies over and over again. When my brother watched Forest Gump three times a day, I must admit, I grew tired of it, but I never lost my love, ever, for Fried Green Tomatoes. Perhaps it was the cultural significance. Perhaps it was the underlying lesbian implications. I like to think it was the food.

I never so much as tasted a fried green tomato before, but watching them sizzling in the diner pans of the Whistle Stop Cafe made me pine for them. Now, I had my chance. I googled, and found this site, run by a follow Michigander Katie, for nonfried green tomatoes. Here, I could fry my tomatoes and bake them too!

Baked Fried Green Tomatoes
What you need:
2/3 c bread crumbs
1 T Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 T cumin
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten (or the egg beaters equivalent)
2 green tomatoes

The logic of this is similar to what you do to bread the eggplant in this recipe.
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the bread crumbs, parmesan, cayenne, cumin, and salt in one bowl. Mix. Put the egg in a second bowl.
2. Cut up the green tomatoes into thin, round slices.
3. Submerge a slice of tomato into the egg. Then, press both sides, alternately, into the bread crumb mixture for a light coat. Recoat in egg. Then, recoat both sides of slice in bread crumbs. Place slice on a tin-foiled baking sheet.
4. Cont. the same process for each tomato slice until all are coated and on the cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet in the oven for 20 minutes. Flip the slices and return them to the oven for another 10-20 minutes. Serve.

As an added bonus, the leftover egg makes a lovely omelet, if cooked in a small skillet on low heat. Add an optional slice of cheese, if desired.

These nonfried beauties have opened my midwestern eyes to the possibilities of southern cooking. Each breaded slice resulted in a taste combination that was both complex and enjoyable. The tomato was tangy with a bittersweet edge to it that was nicely complimented by the earthly taste of cumin and the subtle fiery finish of the cayenne. I'm usually not a fan of a lot of heat in my food but it was just spicy enough. Luckily for me, if my weak taste buds became too overburdened with heat, I had a nice egg and cheese palette-cleanser right there on my plate.

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