Exotic Fried Green Tomatoes
A friend of mine has a farm in upstate New York, and he generously dropped off a CSA-like box of his vegetables – tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, celery, and parsley (more pics on my FB page). There were a ton of tomatoes, and he suggested ripening them by placing them on a sunny windowsill. I thought I would reserve a few of the green ones to recreate classic, Southern fried green tomatoes.
So, interestingly enough, although green tomatoes are known as a Southern specialty, they do pop up in other cultures. They can be found throughout the Mediterranean; Italy, Greece, Turkey – all have their versions. I’ve seen green tomato pickles, green tomato sauces for pasta, delicious cold soups, and beautiful casserole dishes with green and red tomatoes.
For my fried green tomatoes, I like to crush up some pistachios with panko bread crumbs for the crust in place of traditional cornmeal. It gives a nutty bite and a hint of sweetness that works well with the acidity of the green tomatoes. You can stop right there after frying in the recipe if you like – they taste lovely just like that. But I took it a step further and chopped up a bunch of herbs, mixed them up with shredded mozzarella, and baked them to bubbly, cheesy perfection. You can, of course, use whatever herbs you like – any combination of chives, parsley, mint, thyme, and even oregano would be fantastic. Enjoy!
Yields 4 to 6 servings
4 medium, firm green tomatoes
½ cup shelled pistachios
1 ½ cups panko bread crumbs
2 tsps garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp cayenne
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp salt
¾ cup buttermilk
Canola or olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsps chopped herbs (I used chives, parsley & mint)
1 cup low-moisture shredded mozzarella*
Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Trim the ends off of the tomatoes, and cut into 1/4 “ slices. In the food processor, pulse pistachios, until they are almost a coarse meal. Add bread crumbs, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, black pepper, and salt and pulse until the mixture looks like a fine crumb. Pour breading mixture into a bowl or baking dish.
Pour buttermilk into a separate bowl. Dip tomato slices in the buttermilk and then dredge in the breading mixture. Pat the breading mixture on to create an even coat that sticks. Place on a rack on a baking sheet.
Heat a ½“ of oil with butter over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or cast iron skillet. Fry tomatoes in batches for 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Place back on the rack over the baking sheet.
In a bowl, combine chopped herbs and mozzarella. Sprinkle over fried tomato slices and bake in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve immediately.
*I used low-moisture, shredded mozzarella in place of slices of buffalo mozzarella here in order to keep the tomatoes crispy.