Clearly, this has been a day of belated seasonal recipe postings. I am something of a repeat offender, so you shouldn't suspect that this most busy of all summers has been the only time I've neglected to share a delicious plate or two. There's my favorite minestrone waiting to be written about, Jamie Oliver's wonderful spaghetti and meatballs, steak and bacon-flecked German potato salad...
It's just that all of those are so profoundly NOT for the hazy, sun-soaked days of summer, when my SH and I spent the vast majority of our time in the backyard, trying various combinations of spice rubs and sauces on ribs, grilling fish, and relaxing in our lounge chairs (On a side note, though I previously held a prejudice against ribs (I don't like gnawing into bones that are so frequently laced with fat, thank you very much), my SH's ability to grill them has made me a proper convert). Summer is all about sparklingly sweet hunks of melon, creamy slices of fresh mozzarella sandwiched between thick tomato slices and sprinkled with balsamic vinegar, sizzling hamburgers topped with blue cheese and pepper jack, hot dogs and a dazzling variety of sausages tucked into Ozery Bakery's One Buns (I'm fairly certain we'll never go back to standard buns, these are SO very good).
To my intense delight and satisfaction, I was able to use my very own produce to celebrate summer appropriately this year with a recipe that I've longed, literally for years, to make. When I purchased Fresh Every Day almost five years ago, one of the dishes that jumped out at me immediately was the delectably titled Fried Green Tomato and Ripe Red Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese and Sweet Basil Vinaigrette-whew, that's a mouthful! As I've documented more times than I could possibly link, I have a strong affinity for anything crusted, especially if the crusting agent is cornmeal. A favorite childhood dish, in fact, was one my best friend's mother frequently made, a simple platter of lightly fried, cornmeal-crusted zucchini. I've been intrigued by the notion of fried green tomatoes since, well, I first watched the movie of the same name. I was sure that those thick, golden slices passed around the Whistlestop Cafe by Izzy and Ruth would be incredible in real life.
Unfortunately, I was stymied by the seeming impossibility of acquiring a green tomato. It seemed such a rarity, and the few times I ever encountered them in the grocery I completely forgot about the recipe languishing in my beloved cookbook. Fast forward five years later, to my second, incredibly fruitful year of tomato planting. Though my repeated absences over the summer prevented me from staking properly (leading to a jungle-like mass of tomato vines that has completely taken over one corner of the garden), I had quite the crop, including loads of thick, heirloom-shaped green tomatoes, which I promptly took inside, some to ripen, some to finally use for my salad.
It was worth the wait.
2 large ripe beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes (about 1 pound), cored and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
Canola oil for frying (about 1/2 cup) *I cannot, for the life of me, do anything that resembles deep frying. I lightly pan-fried my tomatoes. This probably means they don't taste quite as good, but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make!
4 large green tomatoes, cored and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1/2 pint grape or small heirloom tomatoes (such as Sungolds or Sweet 100's), halved lengthwise
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
Sweet Basil Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
8 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
1. Preheat the oven to 200. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
2. Arrange the tomato slices in one layer on a large platter or individual plates. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Stir the flour, cornmeal, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl.
4. Whisk the egg and buttermilk together in a separate small bowl.
5. Pour enough oil in a large skillet to fill to 1/4 inch deep and heat over medium-high heat to about 375, or until the oil sizzles when you drop a small amount of flour into the skillet.
6. Dip a green tomato slice in the egg-buttermilk mixture to coat both sides, dredge it in the flour mixture to coat both sides, and place it in the hot oil. Repeat with enough tomato slices to fill the skillet without crowding and fry until the under sides are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Turn and fry the other side to golden brown. Use tongs or a slotted spatula to transfer the fried tomato slices to the prepared baking sheet to drain; place the sheet in the oven while you fry the remaining green tomatoes.
7. Arrange the fried tomato slices on top of the fresh tomato slices. Scatter the small tomatoes over the slices and sprinkle with the crumbled goat cheese. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette and top with the basil strips. Season with additional salt and pepper and add more vinaigrette to taste. Serve immediately.
Sweet Basil Vinaigrette (makes about 1 cup)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
5-7 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil.
Whisk the vinegar, lime juice, basil, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking until the oil is incorporated. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.