Fried Green (Cherry) Tomatoes


fried green cherry tomatoes


But why, you may be asking, should I fry green tomatoes?  That was my question too, until we got some from our CSA a few years ago and I tried this for the first time.  The short answer is: they’re delicious.  For a slightly longer one: in our mountain climate, an early freeze is likely pretty much inevitable in the fall, which greatly increases the chances that my friends and neighbors will give me tomatoes picked before they had time to ripen.  They will get a little riper on the counter in a paper bag or wrapped in newspaper, but they’ll never be the same as they would be on the vine. When fried, the green tomato flavor completely changes, and a crunchy cornmeal crust is a wonderful compliment to the tart soft insides.


Fried Green Tomatoes

adapted from The Joy of Cooking


Mix together in bowl for the coating:

1/2 cup dry masa

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup blue corn meal

Seasonings you like: a little bit of salt and pepper, seasoned salt, fresh thyme and/or Cajun spice mix . . . anything you want to give the batter a little extra flavor.

If you don’t have these exact ingredients, don’t worry.  The mixture of fine ground (masa) and coarser cornmeal seemed like a good idea as far as sticking to the tomatoes and producing a crispy crust, but a mixture of regular cornmeal and flour should work fine.  One cup total of the dry batter was enough to cover a heaping dinner plate’s worth of fried cherry tomatoes.

Pour a little buttermilk (or regular milk, I used buttermilk since it’s a little thicker and has a bit of tangy flavor) into a shallow bowl.  If you run out you can always add more to the bowl.


Dip the tomatoes in the buttermilk, then in the cornmeal mixture, shake off the excess and set on a plate to dry.  I found the most efficient method to be: chop a bunch of the little tomatoes in half.  Reserve one hand for buttermilk and one for cornmeal (so you can do several rounds without stopping to wash your hands).  With the buttermilk hand, pick up a handful of tomatoes and drop them in the milk.  Stir to coat and then drop them into the cornmeal mixture.  With the other (cornmeal) hand, scoop cornmeal on top of the wet tomatoes, stir them to coat, shake each one gently and put it on the plate.  I was a little worried about the batter not sticking to the skins of the little tomatoes, but for the most part it worked just fine.

If you have big tomatoes, slice them fairly thin (between a quarter and half inch thick is good).  Dip each slice in the buttermilk and then in the cornmeal, turning to coat.


To fry: heat 1/4 -1/2 inch of oil in the bottom of a heavy pot or skillet.  I like to use my heavy-bottomed soup pot, since any splashes of oil stay inside it instead of all over everywhere.  Use an oil that can take high heat without smoking (I used canola).  Joy suggests heating the oil until a drop of water sizzles when you flick it into the pan.  I did a little research for a recommended temperature, and Southern Living (they should know) suggests 360-375° F.  I know from experience that having the temp too low can cause strange things to happen to your batter . . . anyway, when the oil comes up to heat, drop in as many tomatoes as will fit in a single layer.  Fry until one side is golden brown and crispy, and then turn them over and cook the second side.  When done, scoop the tomatoes out with a slotted spoon or strainer, shake off the excess oil, and place on paper towels.

These are best eaten warm, delicious with a little homemade mayo or ranch as well as just plain.  If that doesn’t make you hungry for some Southern food I don’t know what will!  Black eyed peas and cornbread . . .

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Northern Arizona Corn Bread

 

NAZ cornbread

 

One of the few recent food happenings I have actually gotten a photo of is this cornbread.  It’s my adaptation of a recipe that my Mom has made since I was little.  It came from one of my elementary school teachers, Ms. Bené.  We made it during our creative retreat this year, actually twice, it was a hit!  It’s a sweeter-style cornbread, what in the US we call “Northern” style.  I’ve given it a Southwestern twist as well.  It’s great with blue cornmeal, if you can find it, and pretty awesome with some chiles inside as well.

 

Northern Arizona Cornbread

In a large bowl, mix well:

1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter

2/3 cup sugar

2 eggs

 

Stir in:

1 cup buttermilk, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

-or- plain milk and no soda

The buttermilk gives a nice flavor, but it’s not necessary.  Either way, you can add a dash more milk for a very moist cornbread.

 

Pile on top of the liquids in the bowl:

1 cup blue cornmeal (or yellow if you can’t find blue.)

1 cup whole wheat flour (you can use white or a mix if you prefer)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder (at sea level, at 7000′ I use 1  1/4 tsp)

Stir just until blended.

 

Optional: remove the stems, centers, and seeds from 3 roasted green chiles.  Cut into thin strips, and stir in just before baking.  This adds a delicious bit of spiciness, but leave out if you are serving the cornbread along with other hot foods, which it goes really well with! Chile time is coming again soon!

 

Scrape into a heavy baking pan.  Any size 9 x 9″ or bigger will work, the cornbread will just be a little thicker or thinner.  Bake at 350˚ F for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  It should be a little bit brown around the edges and golden on top, although with the blue corn it can be harder to see.   Enjoy!