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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Unfried Green Tomatoes!

"It's good, but it's NOT fried chicken." Oh, what does he know?! I don't know how to deep fry, and besides, real fried chicken can't taste THAT much better than crispy "oven fried" boneless skinless chicken breast. Right?

I never thought I'd marry a Southerner, let alone move to the Deep South! Never say never. I did it, and I'm so glad. I've never been happier. An especially noteworthy day in my assimilation to Charleston was the very first day I got here -- the very first day I had actual fried chicken. And not fast food, either. OH. MY. GOSH. Keith was right. My oven fried version tasted good, but it WASN'T fried chicken. I think I had fried chicken every day that first summer. And somehow, I didn't gain much weight. I didn't lose any, but I didn't gain that much, either. I think it was a glorious act of God.

Anyone who's known me for any length of time knows that fresh summer tomatoes are my most favorite food (now next to real fried chicken!). So imagine my surprise when fried green tomatoes started popping up on the menus of virtually every restaurant we went to. Green? And fried? Why would anyone ruin the potential of a perfectly good tomato like that? What is the fascination here? You can't do better than the flavor of a ripe red 'mater! You just can't.

Of course I had to try them. Well. Now this is something else entirely! Tangy on the inside, crispy and salty on the outside. And in today's world of food fusion, your classic Southern specialty takes on whatever role you give it, making it ubiquitous appetizer fare. Italian served with marinara sauce. Straight out of New Orleans with a tangy remoulade. Even accompanied by bacon and lettuce for a truly amazing twist on the BLT. They're even good naked!

OK, so now I have two new loves. Fried chicken and fried green tomatoes. Neither even remotely svelte. What's a newly Southern girl to do?! Reinvent, of course!

The true test? Keith. And he says my "Unfried Green Tomatoes" taste better than the ones we get in restaurants. And they're baked! I prefer these without sauce, but anything goes. The sauce on the ones pictured here was a puree of random ingredients I had in the fridge -- onions, apricot preserves, Sriracha, lime juice, and what else? Tomatoes! Red ones for the sauce. It was tasty, but I still preferred them naked. Give it a shot and let me know what you think!

Unfried Green Tomatoes
Serves 4

2 large green tomatoes
1 egg
1 cup Parmesan cheese (shredded, NOT grated)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
Olive oil or cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mist a baking sheet with olive oil or cooking spray. Slice tomatoes between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Beat egg. Combine Parmesan cheese, panko and spices. Dip each tomato slice in the egg, then into the breading mixture, pressing to coat both sides. Place breaded slices in a single layer on the baking sheet. Mist tops with olive oil or cooking spray and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. No need to flip them.

So now I'm torn. Pick the unripe tomatoes to make this recipe, or let them ripen into their full, red deliciousness? Urg. Anyway, y'all let me know what you think!

P.S. I'm still working on the chicken. Stay tuned!

For more "magic" recipes, The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html.


Lauren said...

I love this healthy take on fried green tomatoes! Will definitely have to try it out.

veggie wedgie said...

They look delicious!

The Food Addicts said...

What a great alternative to not frying. Last year I ended up frying them. This here it's time to bake!

Jennifer said...

I much prefer how these are baked! Oooh, these look deliciously addictive...

test it comm said...

The bake version looks just as good, if not better!

The Svelte Gourmet said...

Let me know what you think! You can also spice them up however you like, but again, I prefer to keep them simple and let the tangy tomato shine through!

Dana said...

I've made these twice now -- so good! This time instead of mixing the cheese into the breadcrumbs, I put a little cheese on top of each tomato slice halfway through cooking -- some blue cheese, some sliced Parmesan. I like it even better this way!

The Svelte Gourmet said...

That sounds SO GOOD! I sometimes make a mixture of cheeses, olives, basil, garlic and put it on thick slices of ripe tomato and broil them....this sounds like a great hybrid of that and (un)fried green ones. Thanks!

Dollwood Farms said...

Yummy! I have made the when they are red too and they are just as good, if not better! :)

Alison said...

can I bake these at 350 and increase the bake time and still have them turn out the same? I want to cook them with a roast that needs to be cooked at 350. Please let me know as soon as possible as I would like to make these tonight or tomorrow.


The Svelte Gourmet said...

Hi Alison,

You can certainly try it! My only fear is that the longer you cook them, the softer/juicier the tomatoes will get. That said, 350 for 30 minutes with maybe a quick minute under the broiler at the end might get them nice and crispy and you can still cook them with your roast.

Let me know what happens! Good luck!


Unknown said...

I'm making these tonight, but I'm going to put a little goat cheese on top when served!

Unknown said...

I'm making these tonight, but I'm going to put a little goat cheese on top when served!

The Svelte Gourmet said...

Yummy! How did they turn out?

Unknown said...

So goooood! I ended up using tomatillos because I couldn't find green tomatoes. I also used my left over breadcrumb mixture on some chicken breasts that I cut into strips. Baked it all together. So yummy!

Marlene Taylor said...

I've found if you try to make "fried green tomatoes" with red tomatoes of most heirloom varieties they simply fall apart and goo. If you find your version is a really tangy tomato, you may want to try some other heirloom varieties. Mind don't usually come out tangy nor bitter. I always use panko, and I can't wait to try a baked version. I like to serve mine layered with fresh red tomatoes and drizzled with a balsamic reduction with freshly chopped basil.

The Svelte Gourmet said...

Thanks Marlene! I've recently had similar comments/questions about the variety of tomatoes I use -- with friends off in search of the perfect green heirloom variety. I'm sure there are variations -- especially here in the Charleston restaurant scene, but I stick to the basics. A true fried green tomato is made from a plain old UNRIPE tomato. This lends it its signature tanginess and helps it to stay firm -- even in the oven for my unfried variety. I love thick slices so they're extra tangy -- my husband likes them thin for extra crunch!

Sometimes our grocery stores here put out some unripe tomatoes right there next to the red ones and I buy them up! If your stores don't, try a farmers market or pluck them early from your own garden. Yum!

Kism said...

I love my fried green tomatoes but do not eat dairy and am gf so what about unsweetened coconut instead of the bread crumbs, a flax egg for the egg and processed pecans or hazelnuts for the "cheese"?

Eschaffer6 said...

I have been making these for years. Everyone loves them