The tomatoes all blew over in the storm the other day. All 62 plants, laid out flat, like grass brushed back by a stream. It took me a few days, 62 stakes, and four changes of sweaty, tomato-stained laundry, but they're back on their feet. There were a few casualties. In the process—between the wind and the hammering and the detangling—I had to bring in almost four pounds of fruit still green.
Luckily, I don't mind green tomatoes. I kind of like them, even, though I realize that sounds a little crazy. There are all sorts of excellent things you can make with green tomatoes: rhubarb and green tomato chutney, green tomato jam, my great-grandmother's green tomato pickles.
But my favorite thing is green tomatoes dipped in milk, battered in cornmeal, and fried up for breakfast. It's a southern dish, I think—in Richmond, where my cousins live, it's on the menu at most brunch spots, and it's often served with a few eggs and some bacon. The green tomato slices get soft and meaty on the inside while the cornmeal crisps up on the bottom and top. The fried green tomato's closest cousin, I think, might be fried eggplant.
At any rate, we made fried green tomatoes for breakfast yesterday, and if you've never tried them, I highly recommend it. I used the recipe in the Joy of Cooking: thinly sliced green tomatoes, a saucer of milk, and a dipping mixture of flour, cornmeal, paprika, thyme, and parsley. It's simple but very good. I like to serve mine with a fried egg, sunny side up, still a little bit runny so you can sop up the yolk with the tomato slices. Oh! and hot sauce. Some people like theirs with a spicy mayo, and I'm definitely partial to that, but recently, Alex has turned me on to an orange-red Mexican hot sauce called Valentina, and I think I like that even better. It's more flavorful than spicy, but still a little hot, and it adds something of a tang to the whole dish.
We still don't have a single red tomato, unless you count the cherries. So in the meantime, we'll keep making this—until the weather improves and the green gives way to red.
FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
I've adapted this recipe slightly from the one in the Joy of Cooking. It's nice to serve the tomatoes with fried eggs and, if you like, bacon. If you do decide to cook up some bacon, fry the tomatoes in the grease—they'll be that much tastier. This recipe serves 4.
4 large green tomatoes, sliced thin
1 and 1/2 cups cornmeal
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon paprika or Old Bay
salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
2/3 cup milk
olive oil, for frying
Combine the cornmeal, flour, parsley, thyme, and paprika in a small, shallow bowl or pie plate. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the milk into a small, shallow bowl. Put a few glugs of oil into a large cast iron frying pan, and warm it up over medium-high heat.
Batter each tomato slice by dipping it first in the milk, then rolling it in the cornmeal mixture on both sides. Fry each slice until golden and crisp on both sides. Serve at once.