Fried green tomatoes
The concept of fried green tomatoes hit the world 25 years ago as a literary event with the appearance of Fannie Flagg’s “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.” It is an intergenerational tale of an ordinary Southern family, its food, and its members taking care of each other. The book became popular and was even made into a movie a few years later. For people like me living in the North, it came with the additional revelation: yes, one could fry green tomatoes, and they taste great!
This is the time of the year that reminds me of that. The garden crop of tomatoes is taking its sweet time turning color and the bounty of the still-green crop becomes very tempting as a side dish for meat, or even an unconventional side to scrambled eggs for breakfast. The old-fashioned, simple recipes will tell one to simply slice the green tomatoes in half-inch slices, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, dip both sides of each slice in cornmeal, and fry them in bacon drippings 2-3 minutes to a side. A more substantial coating can be obtained by adding egg and thickening the coating.
Fried green tomatoes recipe
Slice 4 large tomatoes into half-inch slices. In a flat dish, whisk 2 eggs with 2 tbsp. water, 1 tsp. salt, and a pinch of pepper. On a plate, mix thoroughly 1 cup flour with ½ cup cornmeal. Lightly dip each slice of tomato first in flour mix, then egg, and back in the flour mix, on both sides. Fry in hot, but not smoking, vegetable oil in a large pan 2-3 minutes to a side and drain on paper towels. Do not crowd slices on the pan or they will not brown quickly. If you want to gild the lily, top each slice with a thin piece of provolone cheese or serve with some ranch dressing.
Waiting for garden produce to ripen may be a bit frustrating, but many vegetables can be picked at the immature stage and when combined in a soup give an unexpectedly fresh and delightful flavor that can never be achieved by the mature variety. The trick in preserving that flavor is very brief cooking of these tender vegetables and combining the whole with a milk and broth base.
Young vegetable soup with milk
Gather vegetables in the garden or scour local farmers markets for young-looking produce. Clean and dice: 1 medium onion, 1 stalk celery with leaves, 1 cup carrots, and 2 cups baby red potatoes. Prepare also 1 cup baby string beans cut in ¾-inch pieces, 1 cup peas, and 1 cup cauliflower florets. In a 3-qt. pot, saute the onion in 2 tbsp. butter for 5 minutes, stir in the celery, and add 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth. When boiling, add the carrots and potatoes and cook for 10 minutes. Add 1 tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. pepper, and the peas, beans, and cauliflower. Cook for 3 minutes and then stir in 2 cups milk (not skim), 2 finely chopped scallions with the green part, and heat but do not boil. Serve hot, sprinkled with chopped chives and dill, and with crusty bread. The flavor will amaze you.
Summer is a time for experimenting with new flavor combinations. Usually it is considered heresy to mess with lobster in Maine, but the other day I was tempted, with very interesting results. My friend Dan sent over some lobster salad, very properly Maine style with just a dab of mayonnaise to hold it together. I had found a lobster Reuben at a local restaurant — an interesting taste experience. So here is a milder “heretical” version of a lobster taco that does not overwhelm the lobster but gives it a bit more tartness.
Mild lobster tacos
Prepare mild fresh salsa by finely dicing half of a seeded green pepper, two medium tomatoes, and three scallions with green parts. Toss with ½ tsp. salt, 1 tsp. minced parsley, and 2 tsp. rice vinegar. Allow to stand for 30 minutes. In a lightly oiled hot pan, crisp six or more 6-inch corn tortillas 20-30 seconds to a side. Set corn tortillas on a plate, place two heaping tbsp. lobster salad along the center of each tortilla. Top with the desired amount of the salsa. Serve with lemon wedges and enjoy.
Summer in Maine is enjoyed at its best this time of the year with the changing vistas of our familiar places brought about by tides, sunlight, and even mysterious fog banks. Sometimes changing perceptions of familiar foods can lead us to new discoveries.
(I. Winicov Harrington lives in Waldoboro. She is the author of “How to Eat Healthy and Well for Less Than $5.00 a Day: The Smart-Frugal Food Plan.” For more information, go to winicov-harrington.com.)