Out of the Archives 4: Eat Your Greens, pt. 2

Here's another must-read/must-see/must-try from the archives.  It first appeared 5 years ago to the day, on November 13, 2010.  As was the case in 2010, now's the time--there are plenty of green tomatoes around, and you can often get them for a song.

 fig. a:  time to fry

fig. a:  time to fry

There are still some real green tomatoes kicking around. In fact, depending on where you live, there might still be loads of them. And, along with making your own chowchow, frying them is a pretty great way to make use of the last of the tomato harvest. But even if you find that the green tomatoes in your area have already disappeared, all is not lost. As the Lee Bros. point out, your standard supermarket tomato is effectively a green tomato--it certainly was picked green (generally, very green). So you may need to add a bit of lemon juice and some salt to your sliced supermarket tomatoes to coax out a little flavor and approximate the wonderful, citrusy tartness of a true green tomato, but fried green tomatoes are a classic Southern side that you can make pretty much all year long. If you want to make the real deal, however, and I strongly advise giving them a try, local green tomatoes were still available here in Montreal this week. And their bright, tangy flavor this late in the year made it feel like we were cheating the approach of winter somehow. If only for a moment.

Note: you also need some decent cornmeal to make these fried green tomatoes, and good cornmeal can be hard to find in the Montreal region. The best brand we've been able to locate around here is Indian Head Stone Ground Yellow from Maryland, available at Aubut

 fig. b:  B Bros.

fig. b:  B Bros.

Even better is Beattie Bros., which is owned by the same parent company, but produced in North Carolina. Though, as far as we know, you can only get Beattie Bros. in the States.

Fried Green Tomatoes

3 lbs green tomatoes
3 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup whole milk
3-4 cups peanut oil
3 batches fry dredge (recipe follows)
kosher salt, if needed
lemon juice, if needed

Core the stem ends of the tomatoes and slice them in 1/4-inch slices. Set aside. Whisk the eggs and milk together in a broad, shallow bowl.

Pour the oil in a 12-inch or 14-inch skillet (3 cups of oil will suffice for the 12-inch skillet; 4 cups should do for the 14-inch skillet, and the 14-inch skillet will make the task of frying 3 lbs of tomatoes much, much faster--ultimately, whatever size skillet you use, you need an oil depth of about 1/3 of an inch). Heat the oil over medium-high heat until the temperature on a candy thermometer reaches 350º-365º.

Heat the oven to 225 degrees. Set a baker's rack on a cookie sheet on the top rack.

Divide the dredge between two small bowls or shallow baking pans. Taste the tomatoes. "They should have a bright tartness like citrus fruit." If they don't, sprinkle the slices with salt and lemon juice (if you're using supermarket tomatoes, this additional lemon and salt will be necessary). Press 1 tomato slice into the first bowl of dredge on each side, shaking any excess loose. Dunk in the egg mixture, then place in the second bowl of dredge, coating both sides, and shaking any excess loose, before placing the slice on a clean plate. Repeat with more slices until you've dredged enough for a batch (roughly 8-10, if you're using the 14-inch skillet). With a spatula, gently transfer the first batch of slices into the hot oil, taking care not to create splatter, and making sure your temperature continues to hover between 350º-365º.

As the first batch cooks, dredge the second batch according to the directions above, while keeping a watchful eye on the first. Once the slices have fried to a rich golden brown on one side, roughly 2 minutes, flip them carefully and fry for another 2 minutes or so, or until golden brown. Transfer the fried tomatoes to a plate lined with a double thickness of paper towels and leave them to drain for 1 minute.

Transfer the slices to the baker's rack in the oven, arranging them in a single layer, so they remain warm and crisp. Repeat with the remaining slices until all the green tomatoes have been fried. Serve hot with Buttermilk-Lime Dressing (recipe follows).

All-Purpose Dredge

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp stone-ground cornmeal
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, sift the flour, cornmeal, salt, and pepper together twice. Stir. Use as directed.

This is a great all-around frying dredge. The Lee Bros. use this very recipe for everything from chicken, to fish, to fried green tomatoes.

Buttermilk-Lime Dressing

3/4 cups whole or lowfat buttermilk (preferably the former)
5 tbsp freshly squeeze lime juice
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp honey
1/2 cup finely minced basil
1/4 cup finely minced green onions
1/4 cup finely minced parsley
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste

In a small bowl, whisk the ingredients together until thoroughly combined. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator not more than 2 days.

[these recipes are based very, very closely on ones that appeared in The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook]


These fried tomatoes make for a fantastic side with any number of dishes, Southern or otherwise. We love 'em with seafood, but then we've been known to have them with barbecue too, and I could easily imagine having them as part of a Thanksgiving dinner. Leftover fried green tomatoes taste pretty outrageous on top of a leftover pulled pork sandwich, too. Especially if you drizzle a little of that Buttermilk-Lime Dressing on top. Just take a look:

 fig. c:  deluxe pulled pork sandwich

fig. c:  deluxe pulled pork sandwich

Oh, and speaking of Thanksgiving and the Lee Bros.: if you haven't had the pleasure of reading Matt and Ted's New York Times exposé on Marilyn Monroe's stuffing recipe from 1955-6 (as it appears in Fragments, a just-published collection of previously unreleased Monroe ephemera), you really should. Not only is it a great read, but Marilyn's recipe is both mysterious (ground beef? Parmesan? City Title Insurance Co.?) and tantalizing. Just look at that picture. Just look at that recipe

aj

p.s. Looking for "eat your greens 1"? You can find it here.

Top Carrot

 
 fig. a:  carrots

fig. a:  carrots

This recipe--Vadouvan-spiced "Tandoori" Carrots--appeared on our radar months and months ago, courtesy of Bon Appétit, but I only got around to making it this summer.  It showed up in a winter issue as a recipe you could make with wintertime root vegetables, but it's a carrot recipe that benefits from using the freshest, prettiest carrots available--like those in the photograph above--so, really, it's ideal for the current harvest season.  It's also an incredibly versatile recipe.  You could certainly serve it as part of a South Asian menu, but I'd have no qualms serving it in a wide range of contexts, including even an upcoming Thanksgiving meal.  Most importantly, it's a remarkably flavourful and attractive recipe, one that takes roasted carrots to a higher plane.

If you've never heard of Vadouvan, it's a spice blend that's said to be a product of French colonial rule in India--one that typically is built with a base of shallots.  If you can't locate Vadouvan where you live--I wasn't able to track it down in Montreal--it's fairly easy to make, and the flavours are intoxicating, especially if you're able to score fresh curry leaves.*  You might very well find yourself making spiced potatoes, roasted cauliflower, dal, and other dishes with it, in addition to these carrots.  That's what I ended up doing, and every variation was a hit.

 fig. b:  spices

fig. b:  spices

Vadouvan Spice Mix

 2 pounds onions, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pound shallots, halved

12 garlic cloves, peeled

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh curry leaves (optional, but highly recommended)

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds

3/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Special equipment:  this recipe calls for using parchment paper, but I highly recommend using a Silpat silicone baking mat, if you have one.

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Pulse onions in 3 batches in a food processor until very coarsely chopped (there may be a few large pieces remaining), transferring to a bowl. Repeat with shallots, then garlic.

Heat oil in a deep 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over high heat until it shimmers, then sauté onions, shallots, and garlic (stir often) until golden and browned in spots, 25 to 30 minutes

Grind fenugreek seeds in grinder or with mortar and pestle. Add to onion mixture along with remaining ingredients, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and stir until combined.

Transfer to a parchment-paper-lined (or Silpat-lined) large 4-sided sheet pan and spread as thinly and evenly as possible. Bake, stirring occasionally with a skewer or spatula to separate onions, until well browned and barely moist, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Note:  This recipe makes a lot of Vadouvan spice mix, but it's delicious, it's versatile, and it keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

 fig. c:  spicy carrots

fig. c:  spicy carrots

Now that you have your spice blend, you can actually make the "Tandoori" carrots.  Don't worry, you don't need a tandoor.  You just need a hot oven.  The "Tandoori" part comes from the fact that the technique replicates the manner in which other Tandoori dishes are made, like Tandoori chicken.

Vadouvan-spiced "Tandoori" Carrots

2 tablespoons Vadouvan

2 garlic cloves finely grated, divided

½ cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt, divided

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound small carrots, tops trimmed, scrubbed or peeled

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Very coarsely chopped cilantro leaves with tender stems and lemon wedges (for serving)

Preheat oven to 425°. Mix Vadouvan, half of garlic, ¼ cup yogurt, and 3 Tbsp. oil in a large bowl until smooth; season with salt and pepper. Add carrots and toss to coat. Roast on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer, turning occasionally, until tender and lightly charred in spots, 25–30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat turmeric and remain­ing 2 Tbsp. oil in a small skillet over medium-low, swirling skillet, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Whisk lemon juice, remaining garlic, and remaining ¼ cup yogurt in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Place carrots (along with the crunchy bits on the baking sheet) on a platter. Drizzle with yogurt mixture and turmeric oil and top with cilantro. Serve with lemon wedges.

The finished product is a work of beauty:  sweet, spicy, tart, and savoury, with wonderful textures and vivid colours to boot.  You might serve these carrots as a side dish, but, if you do, don't be surprised if they steal the show.  They're really that good.

aj

p.s.  If you can't find Vadouvan near you, and making your own batch seems like too much trouble, just come up with your own curried shallot blend by frying some up in a pan, and try the rest of the recipe.  Everything else about this recipe is dead easy, and the method is sound.

* I got mine at Marché Oriental, on boulevard St-Denis, and they were fresher than fresh.