Baked Fried Green Tomatoes
I love tomatoes. This is not news.
Everyone knows that in-season tomatoes taste best; theoretically, you should be able to buy perfect tomatoes any day, all summer long, from your local grocery store, right? Nope!
If you’ve ever had your mind blown by a ripe, juicy, and– most of all– sweet red tomato, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. (Insert clichéd “not all tomatoes are created equal” comment here.)
Now, thanks to science (!) we know why some tomatoes “taste more like cardboard than fruit.”
My friend, Mimi, drew my attention to this LA Times article about mass-produced tomatoes. For years tomato breeders have been selecting fruit for its uniform color, which has led to a genetic change in most supermarket tomatoes that affects their sugar content. It turns out heirloom and small farm tomatoes– those with darker, splotchier tops– are much sweeter.
(Surprise, surprise… but now we know why!)
This knowledge could not have plunked itself down in my brain with more perfect timing. My CSA share included one pound of green tomatoes, and I got to pick out the pound. The organic heirloom tomatoes were all a bit splotchy, but I reached for the splotchiest!*
And here’s where– despite growing up in Wisconsin– my fear of deep-frying things comes in. I made baked “fried” green tomatoes!
I hardly feel that this was original– all over the cooking blog world, healthier baked versions of traditional deep-fried classics abound– but man, was it good.
My only complaint (to myself) involved the cornmeal: somehow my “medium grind” cornmeal that works so nicely for cornbread was just far too coarse for this dish. (Maybe they mislabeled a “coarse grind” batch?) Of course this means that if you try this out with fine ground cornmeal, I’ll expect no complaints!
I also have to confess that I have no idea how these are served (or with what they are eaten) in the South… With a chunky tomato sauce and a knife and fork? As finger food with a mayonnaise-based dipping sauce? Some other secret Southern way?
Since I nestled my just-baked tomatoes on top of some salad greens to green up these photos, that is just how I ate them: as a salad topping of sorts, with a little bit of fig walnut balsamic vinaigrette drizzled over the greens and the warm green tomatoes.
(But then I discovered this beautiful blog post for a Fried Green Tomato Frittata, and now I know just what to do with my next batch.)
* I can’t say why, but I am somehow proud to have included the words “splotchy,” “splotchier,” and “splotchiest” all in the same blog post.
Baked “Fried” Green Tomatoes
(Serves 2-3 as an appetizer or part of a salad)
~ 2-3 green tomatoes (the splotchier, the better!)
~ ¼ cup cornmeal (fine ground)
~ 2 Tbsp. flour
~ 1 tsp. brown sugar
~ sea salt and black pepper, to taste
~ ⅓ cup buttermilk (or make your own: add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to the milk and let sit for 10 minutes)
~ sprinkle of cayenne or paprika
How to make it:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease an oven-proof baking dish. (Or easier still, just use a cast iron pan!)
2. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. (And, optionally, the cayenne or paprika.)
3. Uniformly slice the green tomatoes. Submerge each tomato slice briefly in the buttermilk, then dredge in the cornmeal mixture, making sure it’s evenly coated. (I would coat the tomatoes with a bit less of the mixture compared to what you see in these photos.)
4. Place the dredged tomatoes in the oven-proof dish or cast iron pan, and bake for about 40 minutes, or until just starting to turn golden brown. Flip the tomatoes over around the 20 minute mark.
5. Serve warm over a bed of greens, as a finger food snack, or however they are eaten in the South!