Umami-Packed Fried Green Tomatoes

green tomatoes tomato slices fried

While the warm weather is officially winding down, and I’ve already busted out the soup pot for a batch of this soul-warming goodness, there’s still one juicy way to hang on to summer a little longer. Sure, it’s a bit tart and perhaps not as versatile as its more mature brethren, but the green tomato makes a lip-smacking treat that rivals all other fried foods.

Seriously, have you tried them? You will not be able to stop eating them.

fried green tomatoes southern fried umami

Don’t resist.

A batter would be too heavy, but a nice triple-dip in dry-wet-dry ensures that every slice is well-crusted and remains so during the pan frying. I’ve seen recipes that call for just flour and others for just cornmeal, but here I combine them, with well-beaten egg, to achieve a satisfying chewy-crunchy ratio without overpowering the fruit.

The key to this recipe, however, is the first dip in Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. The punch of umami imparted by the sauce ensures that the finished tomatoes need no adornment (although if you’re partial to ranch dressing or perhaps remoulade, go for it). And if you have any sauce left after the initial dip, try blending it into the beaten egg for an extra-strong flavor.

If you have a low spice tolerance, adjust the Tabasco accordingly. And feel free to use any other brand of hot sauce you like. To make the recipe ovo-vegetarian, find a fish-free Worcestershire sauce or substitute dark soy sauce.

fried green tomatoes southern fried umami cast iron skillet

Fried Green Tomatoes

Ingredients: 
2 medium green (unripe) tomatoes
3 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp – 1 Tbs. Tabasco (to taste)
1 large egg and 2 Tbs water, well beaten
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup medium or finely ground yellow cornmeal
corn or vegetable oil for frying

Directions:
1. Combine Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco in a shallow bowl. Combine flour and cornmeal in another shallow bowl. Add beaten egg to a third shallow bowl. Line them up in that order.

2. Slice tomatoes in ~1/4 inch slices and arrange in a single layer on a large tray or cookie sheet. Working one by one, dip each slice into the sauce mixture and make sure it is well coated. Then, dredge in the flour-cornmeal mixture and put back onto the tray. Repeat with all tomato slices until finished.

3. Again working one by one, dip each slice in the egg mixture until well coated. (For an extra-flavorful egg dip, mix in any sauce leftover after step 2.) Then, dredge once again in the flour-cornmeal mixture and put back onto the tray. (If you need to top up the flour-cornmeal mixture, make sure it is in a ~ 1:2 ratio.)

4. In a heavy cast iron skillet, heat 1/4″ oil over medium-high heat until it is smoking hot (about 330° F), then immediately turn the heat down to medium. Working in batches so as not to overcrowd, fry tomato slices, turning over, until dark brown on both sides. Add more oil between batches as necessary, allowing it to heat up before cooking tomatoes. Drain tomatoes in a single layer on several paper towels.

Serve hot. If there are any leftovers, keep them in a tightly-sealed container in the refrigerator with paper towels between each layer. Reheat in the oven or toaster oven, or just eat them cold. They make a great substitute for regular tomatoes in a BLT.

Pan-Fried Okra

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No matter where I live — Edinburgh, New York, Lyon — I crave the tastes of my homeland, North Carolina. Although there’s no way of obtaining Cheerwine or hushpuppies over here, I know that if I can locate an Indian grocer, chances are good I’ll be able to feed at least one of my cravings.

Most Indian grocery stores carry a variety of imported produce, from bitter gourd to fresh chilies, and nearly always okra. I’d been hunting around Edinburgh for weeks for a good Indian shop when lo and behold, my boss moved in right above one. I’ve been getting my okra (and chaat, and paratha) fix weekly ever since.

Although I can eat okra any way you can cook it, my favorite style is straight up fried. Sure, it effectively neutralizes all the health benefits, but I’ll be real — I don’t eat okra because it’s healthy. I eat it because it’s delicious! I slice the pods in rounds, wash them, and dredge them all in cornmeal. Then I heat up some corn or vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet till just before it smokes and plop the whole mess in. Plenty of salt and pepper, fry till it’s golden brown and eat hot. (I usually can’t wait to actually serve it at the table — I’m scooping up morsels with my bare hands!)

Try it with any grilled meat and some sliced ripe tomatoes. Or, if you can’t control yourself like me, just eat it by hand like popcorn.

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Pan-Fried Okra

Ingredients:
1 lb okra, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds (Discard ends and tips.)
1-2 cups yellow cornmeal, enough to coat the okra
vegetable oil for frying

Directions:
1. Heat the oil on high in a heavy cast iron skillet. (If you don’t have cast iron, use the heaviest-bottomed pan you have.)

2. While the oil is getting nice and hot, slice your okra and wash in a colander. Dump the cornmeal and work with your hands until each piece is well coated.

3. When the oil is good and hot, almost smoking, dump in the okra all at once. Stir around with a spatula or wooden spoon so that all pieces cook evenly. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Tip: More salt = better taste!)

4. When okra is golden brown, remove from pan and serve hot.

If you want to spice it up, try adding cayenne or chili powder to the cornmeal, or sprinkle on top as the okra cooks.