Have you seen that now classic commercial where a bunch of cowboys get all freaked out about a salsa that is produced in NEW YORK CITY..!?!?!
Well, I found it similarly amusing to be in an elegant restaurant in NEW YORK CITY! recently where they were offering me a menu which included caviar service, foie gras and a Fried Green Tomato Salad. I had to have that salad! It was pretty good but it couldn't match many I've had in some mighty funky places in the South and… at the 14.00 dollar price tag, I could have had a Catfish Dinner with hush puppies, cole slaw and a pitcher of cold beer!
I'm not here to talk about the economic realities of a restaurant in The Big Apple than versus in say, Monkey's Eyebrow, Kentucky, (a place I've actually driven through, though I did not try their tomatoes). I'm here to talk about Fried Green Tomatoes.
Who first thought of taking an under-ripe, hard as a stone tomato and putting it to use?
Thank you wherever you are!
Maybe we put too much emphasis in having fruits… that is right… tomato is a fruit in case you thought it was a vegetable… so like I was starting to say...before I interrupted myself… maybe we put too much weight on only enjoying fruits when they are at maximum ripeness. In fact that is my favorite way but….let’s explore the range of possibilities! We have come to understand and embrace ‘nose to tail’ cooking where we don’t just select out one small percentage of a creature to consume. That is savage and wasteful in the truest definitions.
So let’s look at it like if it were OUR garden an WE were the Farmers. Wouldn’t you love to reap the harvest in sequences… taking full advantage of what the cycle of nature gives up? Underripe, so to speak… to fully ripe? Often ripening comes after the moment of picking. If they all are ripe on the same day we face an “embarrassment of riches” that will lead us to have to throw treasures out.
Instead….. if we pickle, dry, can, freeze or get ingenious we can enjoy the garden…
‘nose to tail’ too.
It is out of the School of Ingenious that I find myself raptly listening to something like, “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” or “O Brother Where Art Thou” that I happily remake a dish out of the cookbook I wrote with my son, Justin. It’s simple to find a copy of “My Key West Kitchen”.
Get yourself some green tomatoes. Ignore the look of pity from fellow shoppers who think you can’t seem to find the riper ones they found. Bring them home. The tomatoes that is. Rinse them and towel dry. Now slice the tomatoes medium and marinate them in a simple vinaigrette for half an hour while you mix a Dixie inspired cocktail. Justin and I dip them in a buttermilk mixture sparked up with hot sauce…. then properly coat them in a flour and cornmeal combo and pan fry them to a golden, crunchy luster! We also give them a little Caribbean flavor with Pick-a-Peppa and Cream Cheese. The late, great James Beard called for sprinkling them with brown sugar as they cook and finishing them with heavy cream. Now that's home cookin' too.
Perhaps a bit on the heavy side…. but you could always head out to the “Back 40” and chop a little cotton….
As for me?
I'll just watch the movie….. ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’, that is.
© 2014 Norman Van Aken. Photo credit to Penny De Los Santos. Like this? Check out WLRN.ORG where many more of my shows are posted and listen Live on Saturday Mornings around 8:30 a.m. at 91.3 or 91.5 FM.