October 29, 2009

Photo from: iStockphoto.com
I love gardening and am passionate about tomatoes in particular. To quote my beloved John Denver, "Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes, ain't nothin' in the world like homegrown tomatoes. Only two things that money can't buy and that's true love and homegrown tomatoes." We've lived at the house for five summers now. I plant more and more each year but I keep still keep it very basic. This year I planted grape & full-sized tomatoes, rosemary, cilantro, catnip, parsley, Japanese & American eggplant, carrots, marigolds & pansies (which I love in salads) and then chicks & hens (which my mom-in-love gave me last year). Odd thing with the large tomatoes, I didn't have a single one that matured to red-ripe on the vine and even the ones that were picked greener and put on a shaded windowsill never ripened properly and turned quite mealy. And so began the great search and ongoing experimentation to create green tomato recipes. ^_^ I do make a mean fried green tomato but one of my favourite recipes so far is one of the simplest… green tomato parmesan. It was loosely inspired by a recipe on Taste of Home's site. First I browned a couple of handfuls of pine nuts in a little butter. Watch them closely; they go from toasty to black in a heartbeat. I make fried green tomatoes with a drench of soured milk (a little drizzle of vinegar does the trick - I never have buttermilk on hand so I use this), a few shakes of Frank's hot sauce, pepper, a tiny pinch of celery salt, and enough all purpose flour to make a very thin, pancake-like batter. Make a dredge of one part corn flour (corn meal will work but the finer grade clings better) and one part inexpensive grated parmesan cheese. Stir in a TB or two of sugar into the dredge as well. Take thinly sliced green tomatoes (between 1/8"-1/4"), drench them in the batter, dredge them, gently shaking off the excess, and pan fry them in about 1/2" of hot olive oil until deep golden brown. Set aside on paper towels while cooking the other batches. When you are on your last batch, preheat oven to 350 F. After the last batch has drained, take a baking dish & pour a little of your favourite spaghetti sauce to coat the bottom, put a layer of fried tomatoes, sprinkle grated mozzarella over all and then another layer of tomatoes (if your dish is deep enough). Top with more sauce, a goodly sprinkling of toasted pine nuts and mozzarella, finally finishing with grated parmesan (regiano, if you have it). Bake until heated thru', bubbly and golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. I took this to lunch for a couple of days & goodly sized portion is just about all you need, since it has veggies & plenty of gooey, cheezy protein. Aloha!

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