The Golightly Gourmet: The Northwest’s untapped bounty – green tomatoes

“Cooks who understand these introverted green beauties can promote their richness, versatility and color appeal to the world.” Jolene George

It is getting to be that time of the year when I start thinking about what sort of soups to make.

Dana Zia
Dana Zia

It is also that time of the year when unripe green tomatoes are hanging abandoned in the garden with the spiders. In the past, I have always thought what a waste that is, but this year I am looking at those bulging green beauties with…..lust.

Green tomatoes are actually a windfall when you know what to do with them. First suggestion is to take one of those ignored waifs from your garden and cut it up and taste it. You will notice that they have a very mild taste and will easily take on the flavors of the foods you cook them with. Yet, they are firm enough to withstand the heat of the fire, unlike their outgoing older cousins. This makes them a very versatile veggie with limitless possibilities. They can do soups, gratins, salads, salsas, sandwiches and even desserts.

It is important to learn a few tricks when working with the under employed, unripe tomato. First off, make sure and pick the biggest ones possible. They will be the less bitter. Second, you will want to core the unripe tomato because its core is woodier and more acidic than in a ripe tomato. Do this by slicing the tomato in half and the core will be a small hard white spot near the stem. Cut that out with a small paring knife and your green tomato adventures have just begun!

The other trick with green tomatoes is to cook them, either in a hot skillet or under the broiler in the oven. The heat will bring out their untapped sweetness that the sun didn’t have a chance to do. An easy way to eat green tomatoes is to fry some slices in a skillet with a bit of butter and serve with fried eggs on top. Super easy and delicious. Also baking with them is a revelation and I’m going to make a green tomato goat cheese tart (gluten free of course) for dinner tonight. (Obviously I have some green tomatoes on my hands)

Once you get started on experimenting with your unripe tomatoes you’ll never look at them the same. Try breaking outside the fried green tomatoes box and using them in different recipes. I was amazed at how many recipes there actually are for these little green nuggets. We tried them in a gratin, a crisp, salsa, soup and then this salad.

Our guinea pigs decided that the salad was the most inventive and delicious. So here it is presented for you to try. Don’t be shy to do a search online for recipes for green tomatoes. I highly recommend the New York Times green tomato salsa as well. It was second in our taste trials. Happy experimenting!

Caramelized Green Tomato and Nectarine Green Salad

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For the vinaigrette

4 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons of finely chopped shallots

4 tablespoons of champagne vinegar or

white wine vinegar

4 tablespoons of olive oil

1 tablespoon of honey

1 teaspoon of salt

Few cranks of black pepper

Put all the ingredients into a jar and put on the lid. (Important safety tip, make sure it is a tight fitting lid!) Shake it all up till well blended.

For the Salad

2 large nectarines or apples, cut into thin wedges

4 unripe tomatoes, cut into wedges

1 teaspoon of sugar

½ teaspoon of salt

A few drizzles of olive oil

6 cups or so of mixed salad greens

1 cup of fresh basil leaves, shredded

½ cup or more of crumbled blue cheese

½ cup of chopped toasted hazelnuts or walnuts

Fresh cracked black pepper

What to do…..

In a medium bowl, toss the tomato and nectarines wedges with the sugar and the salt. While those wait for their starring role, line up the supporting cast by mixing the salad greens and basil together.

Arrange 6 salad plates with the greens. Crumble up the blue cheese and have it hanging in the wings with the nuts.

Heat up your favorite large skillet and add a few drizzles of olive oil. Once the oil is shimmering, lower the heat to medium and add the tomatoes and nectarines, laying them on their sides. Try not to crowd them in the skillet and cook these little stars, without disturbing them till them begin to brown. Flip them onto their other sides and caramelize that side too.

Working quickly, remove the tomatoes and nectarines from the skillet and arrange them artfully on the greens. Sprinkle with the blue cheese and hazelnuts and drizzle with the dressing. Crank a bit of pepper on top and serve immediately to some lucky family and friends.

You will never look at green tomatoes the same.

 






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