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Fried Green Tomatoes
by Elizabeth Norcross

It’s out of the garden and back to the work. Since my last column on herb gardens, it inspired me to go far beyond. I set up a ‘garden center’ with a potting table, various gardening tools, chicken wire for fencing, every size, style and type of pot, stakes for tomatoes and the compost heap which farmer Rebecca Gilbert from the Native Earth Teaching Farm was kind enough to see me through the first couple of months, giving advice and encouragement. This year I used cow manure (it didn’t smell) at $6.00 a bag.

The two long gardens in front with flowers and herbs grew very nicely together. I made another herb garden outside the kitchen window so I could just open it, snip and put in the pot. There’s even a curry plant. And the chicken stock from all these fresh herbs is amazing. I have bags full of frozen cubes which makes such a difference to a dish that calls for stock. Hopefully some of the herbs can be taken in for the winter, like the big Rosemary bush, and the Tarragon which was hard to find at the nurseries and out of three places I planted it only one grew happily. Lots of Basil, Coriander, Parsley, but Purple Basil did not grow well and I planted it everywhere. Cherry tomatoes were prolific and came in twice and were awesomely delicious, whereas the big Betterboy’s just come in once.

In the second long front garden was the staked cherry tomatoes which were abundant and delicious, with two harvests. There’s nothing like cherry tomatoes swirled around in a cast iron skillet in butter with freshly chopped Tarragon, taking them out just before they pop. I got the seedlings from Mermaid Farm and they grew so well. Also in that garden was the lettuce. The Bibb lettuce was gorgeous and delicious. The second lettuce variety, not so much. Up in the ‘back patch’ in the back there are still Betterboys and eggplants
growing. I don’t think there will be watermelons this year, they were planted too late
I fear.

Living on an island, food is precious - and expensive. But here on Martha’s Vineyard there is Community Supported Agriculture. People buy shares supporting the grower and profiting from the harvest, whether it be food or wool, whatever. If you can possibly get food that is grown locally, so much the better for you and them.

My new favorite food is fried green tomatoes. A friend cooked lunch for me one day – a slow food-soul food fried green tomato lunch, with tomatoes from his garden. It was beyond divine. He served it with slices of crisp kielbasa, and grits with maple syrup drizzled over the top which very unobtrusively melded in. It was indescribably delicious! I’ve been in the kitchen ever since making every green tomato recipe I can find, each one better than the next.

Heirloom tomatoes have become increasingly popular and more readily available in recent years. The word ‘heirloom’ has worked it’s way into the lexicon like ‘sustainable’ and ‘organic’ before it. It’s non-hybrid or open pollinated. In the market the word organic brings an automatic two or three dollar increase in price. In the store the other day the man in front of me bought a bag of ‘organic’ onions and they cost over Nine Dollars!
Just a regular small net bag of onions.


Between the first ‘white frost’ which kills the tenderer crops like green peppers and eggplant and the dreaded ‘black frost’ which leaves a garden black – (ready made compost) the provident gardener will pluck all the unripened tomatoes from the vines and store them in a cool place until there is time to convert to pickles, a tart relish, marmalade or the unusual Vineyard green tomato/apple pie recipe below. I ate it with Ben & Jerry’s Crème Brule ice cream. OMG.


The finest of the green tomatoes can be wrapped in newspapers stored in a cool dark place and opened and used as they ripen, a process that can sometimes be sustained into early December. I hope you find something you like here -


Basic Fried Green Tomato Recipe
2 or 3 large green tomatoes
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs beaten
2/3 cup homemade fine breadcrumbs or cornmeal
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Cut unpeeled tomatoes into 1/2” slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let slices sit on paper towel to give off juice for about fifteen minutes. Set milk, flour, eggs and breadcrumbs in separate dishes.

Heat 2-3 teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Dip tomato slices first in milk, then flour, then eggs, then breadcrumbs. In the hot oil fry the dipped tomato slices, a few at a time, for about four minutes a side until dark golden brown. As you cook the rest of the tomatoes, add olive oil as needed. Season to taste with salt and
pepper.


This sandwich is so fabulously delicious!  It’s served at the wonderfully inventive Slice of Life cafe in Oak Bluffs.

Fried Green Tomato BLT

Fried Green Tomatoes
Applewood Smoked Bacon
Arugula
Basil Mayonnaise
Serve on Rosemary Bread (or a ciabatta roll)

Green Tomato Soup

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 –2 cups smoked ham, roughly chopped
1 small onion chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
6-8 medium sized green tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 medium red tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper or scotch bonnet pepper seeded and stem removed, minced
(or substitute 1/2 Tsp red pepper flakes for less heat)
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté gently until
onion is soft. Add broth and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and add jalapeno (or pepper flakes) and cook for another 30 minutes.

About a cup at a time, use a blender to process the soup until semi-smooth.
Pour back into saucepan and add ham. Slow simmer for about fifteen minutes more.
salt and pepper to taste.

For a creamy soup half a cup of half and half or heavy cream can be added for the final simmer. Delicious!

4-6 servings


Croutons

There’s nothing like a good crouton made from good bread to make or break a soup.
Cut the bread into 1/2 inch cubes and spread on a baking sheet. Toast in a
400* oven stirring occasionally until crisp and brown, ten to fifteen minutes.

The other way to do it is to heat butter in a large cast iron skillet. Sauté
a bit of garlic in the butter first (optional). Add the bread cubes and sauté
over medium heat stirring and tossing the cubes until golden brown.
Transfer croutons to paper towel to drain before using.


Here’s a terrific little recipe that goes great with nachos - this is like a culinary LBD
(little black dress)


Green Tomato Salsa

5-6 medium green tomatoes
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced or through garlic press
1/2 cup red onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
2 tbls olive oil
4 tbls fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp course sea salt



Pie

Make pie crust for two-crust pie – I’ll give you my favorite pastry for this below.
Both recipes come from ‘The Martha’s Vineyard Cookbook’ (Louise Tate King & Jean Stewart Wexler)

Green Tomato and Apple Pie

3 medium size tart apples
2 cups sliced green tomatoes
1 cup sugar (half white and half brown is suggested
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice (optional)
2 scant tbls flour
1 tbls lemon juice
2 tbls butter
1 tbsp cream or melted butter
(or 1 tbls beaten egg yolk)

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Prepare pastry and use half to line a 9-inch pie pan. Peel and core apples and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Slice tomatoes to match. In a large bowl combine sugar, spices, and flour. Mix lightly, then gently mix in tomatoes, apples, and lemon juice. Fill pie shell with this mixture; dot with bits of butter. Add top crust.

Crimp edges. Brush with cream, melted butter, or egg yolk mixed with a little water. Cut several slits in top crust or prick with fork. Bake about 15 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Reduce heat to 350* and bake for a total of about one hour.


This is a great recipe and strategy for making a double flaky crust:


Suzanne’s Pie Crust

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup Crisco (measure generously)
1/4 cup ice water

Put flour and salt in a food processor. Pulse once or twice only. Empty 1/3
cup of this mixture into a small bowl. Add the ice water and stir briskly until a
smooth paste is achieved. Set aside.

Add Crisco to mixture in food processor. Process just enough to form an uneven, crumbly mass. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the paste mixture. Using a wooden spoon, mix quickly until the mixture is well incorporated. Then use your hands , still working quickly, to form dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for ten minutes.

When ready to fill the pie, roll pastry as follows: Tear off a 16-inch length of wax paper
and sprinkle it with several tablespoons of flour. Set the pastry ball in the center of the
paper and cut the ball in half. Set one half aside and cover. Center the other half on the
paper, cut side down. Flatten once with the palm of the hand, then roll pastry into a
circle sufficient to fit a 9-inch pie pan. The dough should extend 1 to 1 1/2 inches beyond
pan’s rim. Trim ends evenly.

Center pie pan upside down on the dough. Slide one hand under the wax paper, invert crust onto pan, and peel off paper. Save it to use for top crust. Turn under the rim pastry, making a fluted edge, fill bottom pie crust with green tomato/apple filling. Repeat process for top crust, cut three vents in center, and flute edges over bottom crust.

Makes two 9-inch crusts.

If you are having ice cream I thought I’d mention that Ben & Jerry's gets all their milk from dairies that have pledged not to inject their cows with genetically engineered bovine growth hormone. (rBGH), one of the few ice cream makers to do so.

Bon Appetite! as Julia would say.