vrai-lean-uh

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Posts tagged tomatoes

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Tomatoes

Photo of green tomatoes by davidking

We’ve been getting green tomatoes in our CSA share.

The two things that I’ve heard of doing with green tomatoes is frying them and making them into some kind of relish deal. I’ve never been a particularly big fan of green tomato relishes, and fried green tomatoes seemed like a non-starter. There’s all the hot oil, for one, and the fact that it’s hot, and splatters. And it seems like the kind of thing that you have to make in huge batches in some kind of assembly line with cousins and aunts and neighbors all sitting around dunking tomato slices into batter. It was also just not something we ever ate or made growing up, ever. This is because, with the exception of my grandmother from North Carolina, we are all resolutely New Englanders and thus reluctant to fry things that are not clams* or potatoes (which are a universal fried food, spanning the Mason Dixon).

But push came to shove, and I made fried green tomatoes. We got a ton of them in the CSA, and frying them seemed like the easiest thing that would net us more than a condiment. I don’t know why I avoided it for so long. It’s not like you don’t come across a lot of green tomatoes if you’re a member of a CSA (or at least, any of the CSAs I’ve ever been a member of).

And it is not as scary as I thought:

If you’ve been cooking for a certain period of time, you’re probably no longer particularly sensitive to small hot oil splatters on your forearms. It hurts, just not in an OH MY GOD GET MY ARM AWAY FROM THAT AS FAST AS POSSIBLE way.

You don’t need a vat of oil to fry tomato slices.

You don’t have to make them in huge batches. It’s totally reasonable to fry enough green tomatoes for a relatively filling appetizer for two people.**

And they’re really good! The tomatoes are nicely sour/tart, and the frying makes them hot without being mushy. They would be fantastic with a homemade mayonnaise for dipping.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Get together three shallow bowls and line them up. Fill the first with about 1/2 a cup of flour. Fill the second with an egg, beaten with a fork. Fill the third with an equal mix of flour and corn meal (about 1 cup).

Slice the tomatoes into 1/4 - 1/2” thick disks. Salt and pepper the tomatoes.

Heat up a 1/2” inch or so of oil in the bottom of a skillet.

Dip the tomato slices into the flour, then egg, then flour/corn meal. You know how when you’re preparing a cake pan, you coat it in butter, then add flour, then tap out the excess flour? I found the dipping went better if I just slightly tapped the tomato slices to get rid of the excess flour after the first flour dip. Does that make sense?

Fry your tomato slices in the oil until brown, then flip and fry the other side. Maybe 2 - 4 minutes per side? Maybe? Lay on paper towels to cool slightly.

Watch out for molten tomato innards. You will absolutely burn your tongue.

I found out later from my dad that my grandfather used to make fried green tomatoes.

* Clams are obviously the One True and Right Fried Food.

** I do not normally make “appetizers” on a weeknight for the two of us. It’s just that we were both really hungry, and it was five thirty and dinner was going to be later.

Filed under frying tomatoes

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I was all nervous about posting this earlier in the week because I thought that Irene might destroy all the tomatoes. Luckily, that is not the case in Portland and we got a ton of tomatoes at the CSA pick up. I think we’re solidly in the moving-the-product phase of tomato season.
Not that I’m complaining, because how often can you make a good salad by cutting up one piece of fruit and sprinkling salt over it? It makes dinner so much easier!
Finally, a story:
When I was in Montreal immediately after college and only demi-employed, I spent a fairly significant amount of my time wandering around their food markets (Marche Atwater and Marche Jean Talon are the biggies). I was at Marche Atwater one afternoon and saw this gorgeous display of tomatoes. They were spectacular. I asked for two large tomatoes (some stands don’t like you to handle the tomatoes before you buy, mostly to keep you from squeezing them. See also). The older woman at the stand gently placed them into a bag for me, took my money, but would not hand over my bag of just-purchased tomatoes until she received verbal assent that I would absolutely not put them in the refrigerator. She was right. Don’t put them in the refrigerator. They get mealy. I tell you this because we do not all encounter older Quebecoise women in our impressionable youth to guide us in this way.

I was all nervous about posting this earlier in the week because I thought that Irene might destroy all the tomatoes. Luckily, that is not the case in Portland and we got a ton of tomatoes at the CSA pick up. I think we’re solidly in the moving-the-product phase of tomato season.

Not that I’m complaining, because how often can you make a good salad by cutting up one piece of fruit and sprinkling salt over it? It makes dinner so much easier!

Finally, a story:

When I was in Montreal immediately after college and only demi-employed, I spent a fairly significant amount of my time wandering around their food markets (Marche Atwater and Marche Jean Talon are the biggies). I was at Marche Atwater one afternoon and saw this gorgeous display of tomatoes. They were spectacular. I asked for two large tomatoes (some stands don’t like you to handle the tomatoes before you buy, mostly to keep you from squeezing them. See also). The older woman at the stand gently placed them into a bag for me, took my money, but would not hand over my bag of just-purchased tomatoes until she received verbal assent that I would absolutely not put them in the refrigerator. She was right. Don’t put them in the refrigerator. They get mealy. I tell you this because we do not all encounter older Quebecoise women in our impressionable youth to guide us in this way.

Filed under tomatoes in which I reminisce about my youth

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I got my ass in gear in a big way Saturday and made applesauce and tomato sauce.
I’ll post more about the apple sauce, but this is the tomato sauce (recipe courtesy of Gourmet*/epicurious).  I spent more time trying to clean the pans than I did making the sauce.**
This sauce recipe has the benefit of not requiring that you seed or peel your tomatoes, which I like, because I learned from Cook’s Illustrated that the seed jelly has a lot of the flavor, and also because blanching tomatoes seems really fussy.  It recommends you put everything through a food mill, which I guess would get rid of the seeds, but I don’t mind them in the sauce.  So I put everything into a food processor.
* I bought the new/not new Gourmet (Gourmet Quick Kitchen) that’s now on sale.  It was crazy expensive for a magazine featuring already published recipes, and the recipes aren’t new, and there are other criticisms, but it has really pretty pictures and I was having a weak moment at Target.  In the light of day, though, I do feel a little like Conde Nast mugged me in a back alley.
** I may have burned one pan a smidge.  The sauce has a slightly smokey flavor.

I got my ass in gear in a big way Saturday and made applesauce and tomato sauce.

I’ll post more about the apple sauce, but this is the tomato sauce (recipe courtesy of Gourmet*/epicurious).  I spent more time trying to clean the pans than I did making the sauce.**

This sauce recipe has the benefit of not requiring that you seed or peel your tomatoes, which I like, because I learned from Cook’s Illustrated that the seed jelly has a lot of the flavor, and also because blanching tomatoes seems really fussy.  It recommends you put everything through a food mill, which I guess would get rid of the seeds, but I don’t mind them in the sauce.  So I put everything into a food processor.

* I bought the new/not new Gourmet (Gourmet Quick Kitchen) that’s now on sale.  It was crazy expensive for a magazine featuring already published recipes, and the recipes aren’t new, and there are other criticisms, but it has really pretty pictures and I was having a weak moment at Target.  In the light of day, though, I do feel a little like Conde Nast mugged me in a back alley.

** I may have burned one pan a smidge.  The sauce has a slightly smokey flavor.

Filed under Why do you want to ruin my life Conde Nast? tomatoes

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4 Things I Learned in Making the Summer Vegetable Gratin


Or, This Better Be the Best Damn Casserole Ever Because It Is Certainly the Hardest.*

1. At the farmer’s market, look for the split tomatoes, which are just as good, flavor-wise, as the pretty heirlooms but for around $1/pound.  They’re just really ugly and no one wants to buy really ugly tomatoes.  Except you!  Because you know that it doesn’t matter how ugly the tomatoes are if they taste good!  (See my Terry Richardson style photo of the ugly tomatoes.  You’ll be happy to know that no tomatoes were sexually assaulted in the taking of those photos.)

2. According to Cook’s Illustrated (who site a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry), the seeds and jelly in a tomato contain the majority of the tomatoey flavor, so you shouldn’t take them out.

3. While it is possible to create a summer vegetable gratin with tomatoes and summer squashes (and bully for you, Cook’s Illustrated, for making it happen), it ultimately is fighting against the very watery nature of both those vegetables (fruits) and just not really worth the effort.  Good tomatoes are just as good sliced raw and sprinkled with salt or roasted in the oven with breadcrumbs on top or in a grilled cheese.  I like summer squash better in pasta or on tart dough with chevre.  None of those take the better part of two hours to create.

4. I need to trust my gut when I first read recipes, because I don’t how I convinced myself that I would enjoy cooking a recipe that involved: salting and draining 2 pounds of summer squash; salting and draining 1 pound of tomatoes (separately from the squash); caramelizing onions; making a special garlic/thyme oil to toss with the zucchini;layering everything; cooking the whole thing part way; then making a special breadcrumb, oil, cheese, shallot (yes TWO kinds of onions) mixture and topping the partially cooked casserole with the mixture and then cooking some more; then topping with basil leaves.  All for a dish that still required a main course of some sort.  I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that the recipe involved dirtying half the pots and dishes in my kitchen.

I am not going to post the recipe, because it’s not really worth the effort.  But if you want to dig it up, it’s in the August 2010 Cook’s Illustrated Summer Entertaining magazine.  Dave thought it was good, and I did too, but just not good enough.

* It was not.

p.s. A picture of the finished gratin (taken today because it was TOTALLY DARK by the time the damn thing was done last night):

Filed under tomatoes Learning from mistakes summer squash I hope you're not reading this blog for the photos