Monthly Archives: September 2017

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes are a crispy and tangy side dish usually found in the Southern part of the USA.  This iconic Southern dish was made popular by the book and subsequent movie, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.

The novel, written by Fannie Flagg, was published in 1987 and released as a movie in 1991.  I can recommend the book and suggest reading it before watching the movie.  If you don’t want to buy the book or movie, check out your local library.  My library has the book (handover and digital) and the movie on DVD for loan.

The novel is a tale of the South with two time periods, the Great Depression and 1985.  The two time periods are brought together through the stories of the elderly Mrs. Threadgoode.

While the book does have a lot of folksy type Southern humor, there is a dark side to the novel.  Segregation, racial prejudice, threats from the scary and dangerous Ku klux klan, and domestic abuse are just some of the happenings in the book.  Plus, there are the two tragic accidents involving the train that runs through Whistle Stop.

To offset some of the darkness, there is the love story between Idgie and Ruth and the friendship between Ninny Threadgoode and Evelyn Couch.

And then, we have Sipsey and Big George.  Sipsey is the wonderful African American Southern cook who fried up the green tomatoes at the cafe; and Big George is her son who did all the barbecuing.  Sipsey’s food is legendary.  She and Big George are household help but at the same time part of the family, and do what is necessary to protect Ruth and her baby.

There are a lot of references to all the good Southern food that is cooked up at the cafe.  You will definitely get hungry reading the book.  This is one of my favorite quotes from the book, as spoken by Ninny:  “Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a plate of fried green tomatoes like we used to have at the cafe.”

There are several recipes given at the end of the book, including the one for Fried Green Tomatoes.  It is actually a simple recipe:  “green tomatoes, salt and pepper, corn meal,  and bacon fat.  The seasoned tomatoes are dipped in the corn meal and then fried in the bacon fat”.  I haven’t made the tomatoes according to Sipsey’s recipe but if fried in bacon fat must be good.

We have a new restaurant in East Grand Rapids, the Carolina Low Country Kitchen that lives up to its name.  Not only does it serve shrimp and grits but fried green tomatoes are on the menu.  The tomatoes are served as an appetizer with a remoulade type sauce.  They are absolutely delicious and presented beautifully.  Below is a picture I took of them the last time we were there.

Now, I sometimes serve the tomatoes I make with a remoulade sauce.  Here is the recipe I use.

Green tomatoes are simply unripe red tomatoes.  I have found them at farmers markets and on occasion at my local grocery store.  Green tomatoes will be very firm to the touch.  Try to use them as soon as you can because they will start to ripen rather quickly.  Be aware that some Heirloom tomatoes are green when ripe, so don’t mistake the two.

Fried Green Tomatoes

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
2 cups breadcrumbs (1 cup Panko and 1 cup regular breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 green tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 1 pound)
vegetable oil for frying
Fresh basil, optional

Line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour with the salt and pepper.  Beat egg and milk in a shallow bowl.  In another bowl, combine all the breadcrumbs with the parmesan cheese.

Dip each tomato slice into the flour and then dip into the egg  and milk mixture, letting any excess drip back into the bowl.  Then, coat in the Panko bread crumb mixture.  Place tomato slices on a prepared baking sheet.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until oil begins to shimmer.  Fry the tomatoes in batches until golden and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Drain on a baking tray lined with paper towels.  Garnish with basil, if desired.  Best served while hot.

Notes:
The tomatoes can be served with a remoulade sauce or with Ranch dressing, if desired.

 

Cream of Tomato Soup

There are still a lot of beautiful tomatoes available at the Farmers Market.  Fortunately, there are many wonderful ways to eat and cook with tomatoes.  One of my favorite ways is to make soup.  I always make several batches of cream of tomato soup during the season.  It just happens to be my favorite soup.

I don’t really care for Campbell’s Tomato Soup, although their Tomato Bisque is fairly good.  Panera Bread, a USA restaurant chain, has an excellent tomato soup; their Vegetarian Creamy Tomato Soup.  But the best is obviously homemade with fresh, ripe tomatoes.

The Campbell Soup Company came out with the condensed tomato soup in 1897.  Although the canned variety made the soup very popular, the first recipe is credited to Maria Parloa in her 1872 cookbook The Appledore Cook Book.

Miss Parloa was a culinary pioneer who authored seven cookbooks and established two cooking schools.  She was also the first to promote cooking brands, such as Baker’s Chocolate.  Miss Parloa also contributed to The Ladies Home Journal magazine and was also part owner.  For more information on this remarkable woman, see this article at the Bethel Public Library.  She left the town of Bethel, CT $2,000 which they used to establish the library.

The above referenced article calls her recipe Tomato Chowder.  However, in her cookbook, it is titled Tomato Soup.  A free digital copy of the cookbook is available from Archive.org.  There are several download options available.

This recipe calls for the tomatoes to be peeled.  I have a great vegetable peeler that actually peels tomatoes.  It is the Oxo Good Grips Serrated Peeler that I purchased from Amazon for $8.99.

You can see in my photo below that it does a good job.

This recipe is adapted from Betty Crocker.  See the original recipe for directions on peeling tomatoes using the boiling method.

Serve this delicious creamy soup with a grilled cheese sandwich and you will be in comfort food heaven.

Cream of Tomato Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped (about 4 cups chopped)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

croutons for serving (optional)

In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Cook onion in the oil for 3 to 5 minutes until translucent, stirring frequently.  Stir in the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper,  basil, and chicken or vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15-25  minutes or until tomatoes are softened and cooked down.  Remove from the heat and stir in the heavy cream and butter.

Carefully blend the soup with an immersion blender until desired smoothness.  I like mine slightly chunky.  If desired, serve soup with croutons.  

Note:
1.  A blender or food processor can also be used to blend the soup.
2.  I slice the very top of the tomato off in order to get rid of the stem part and then discard it.
3.  I like to use Amore Tomato Paste which comes in a 4 ounce stay-fresh tube and allows you to use the right amount for your recipes.  After opening, it stores in the fridge and has a long shelf life.