Life in Progress: A weblog by Heidi Price

Too many green tomatoes

(This is a photo of the finished product. Cookbook photo, not mine)

I think I planted my tomatoes late. I have dozens of perfectly-round, bright-green tomatoes that did not make it to the ripening stage.

In recent weeks, as I've pulled up my garden, I couldn't bear to compost all of them. I lined as many as I could on my windowsills that get the most sunlight. I composted a few. I piled the rest along one edge of my garden, unsure what to do with them until a coworker suggested a recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes with Goat Cheese. He found the recipe in "Restaurant Favorites At Home" by the same people people who publish Cook's Illustrated magazine. It sounded like a good remedy for too-many green tomatoes.

The saint-in-my-life-who-loves-to-cook made them on Saturday night and they were delicious. A roof issue earlier in the day prevented him from making the Red Pepper Coulis so I can't vouch for that. The green tomatoes were wonderful though, very light, crisp and tasty. I was in charge of dessert so we finished them off with Root Beer Floats that also turned out perfectly thank you very much.

I'll include the recipe for the Fried Green Tomatoes below. If I were vous, I would head to your local library and check out "Restaurant Favorites At Home" (my library had it). The book is stock-full of delicious, completely doable recipes from famous restaurants such as Butterscotch-Banana Pie and Rosemary Roasted Split Chicken. Like other Cook's Illustrated publications I have read, Restaurant Favorites also includes a lot of really helpful how-tos, such as, on page 25, how to shred cheese neatly: Use nonstick cooking spray to coat the coarse side of a box grater lightly, then shred cheese as usual. The cooking spray will keep cheese from sticking to the surface of the grater.

Anywho, here's the how-to on the tomatoes and the Red Pepper Coulis:

Red Pepper Coulis:

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 small onion, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (about 1/3 of a cup)
1 medium garlic clove, minced or press through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
2 Tbsps. sugar
1 sprig fresh thyme
3 fresh basil leaves
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsps. dry, white wine
Salt and ground black pepper
Tabasco sauce

Fried Green Tomatoes
-3 medium, green tomatoes, cored, tops and bottoms discarded, each tomato sliced crosswise into 4 rounds, 1/4-inch thick
-Salt and ground, black pepper
-6 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature (about 3/4 cup)
-1/2 cup all purpose flour
-3 large eggs
-2 cups Panko (Don't panic, he used Progresso bread crumbs and it was fine. If you want to stay true to the recipe, Japanese style bread crumbs can be found in Asian markets and sometimes international aisle of supermarket. Or, if you are a purist, there is a really easy recipe for homemade Panko below)
-4 cups vegetable oil
-1 1/2-ounces arugala (about 3 cups lightly packed) washed and dried
-1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

For the Coulis: Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the bell pepper and onion and saute until the peppers have softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar, thyme, basil, chicken broth, and wine: simmer until the flavors have melded and the peppers are completely soft, 10 to 13 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Pour the mixture into a medium bowl and season to taste with salt, pepper and Tabasco; set aside. The sauce can be served either warm or at room temperature. The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. (Be sure to heat slightly to take off the chill before serving).

For the Tomatoes: lay the tomato slices in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with several layers of paper towels. Season the tomato slices liberally with salt and pepper. Spread 1 Tbsp. of goat cheese evenly over one cut side of each tomato slice.
Spread the flour in a shallow dish or pie plate. Lightly whisk the eggs together in a separate, shallow dish. Spread the panko in a third dish. Working with several slices of tomato at a time, drop them into the flour and gently shake the dish back and forth to coat. Shake the excess flour from each piece, then, using tongs, dip the tomato slices in the egg mixture, turning to coat well, and allow the excess to drip off. Drop the tomato slices into the panko, and press the crumbs lightly to adhere. Shake off any excess crumbs and place the breaded tomatoes on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining tomato slices. (The breaded tomato slices can be refrigerated for up to 2 hours.)
Heat the vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 350 degress. (Use an instant-read thermometer that registers high temperatures or clip a candy/deep-fat thermometer onto the side of the pan before turning on the heat.) Using tongs, gently place six breaded tomato slices into the oil, being careful not to overlap them, or they'll stick together. Fry until golden brown on one side, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain the cooking temperature. Flip the slices over and fry on the second side until golden, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes longer. Transfer the fried tomatoes to a baking sheet with paper towels and repeat with the remaining tomato slices.

To serve: Toss the arugala with olive oil in a medium bowl and season with salt. Stack 2 fried tomatoes in the center of each of 6 individual plates and top each serving with about 1/2 cup of the arugala. Drizzle each portion with 3 Tbsps. of the red pepper coulis and serve immediately. Enjoy.

Homemade Panko
(makes 1 cup)

- 5 slices high-quality white bread (such as Pepperidge Farm) crusts removed and quartered.

To prepare: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees. Process the bread through a food processor fitted with the shredding disk, using only the weight of the feed-tube guard to press the bread against the disk. Transfer the crumbs to a rimmed baking sheet and bake, shaking the pan occasionally, until the crumbs are dry and crisp but not toasted, about 6 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack. Panko can be stored in a zipper-lock bag at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.



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