18 December, 2008

Sweet Green Southern-Fried Pride

Few things scream Deep South like the mild tang of green tomatoes. Other cultures dabble in the land of the un-reddened, unripened fruit, but Southerners embrace it with big, wide, opened arms. With the pending harvest of dozens taunting us in its tempting green state, this Southern American girl caved and cooked up a couple green tomato delights, this week, thanks to the enormous third-of-a-kilo greenies we plucked.

Lamb for Two, Over Sweet Pasta Verde
A small handful of raisins (sultanas)
A fair splash of Verjus or a mix of light fruit juice (white grape, apple, etc), lemon juice, and a drop or two of white wine vinegar, for plumping the raisins
1 large green tomato, diced
1 spring onion, finely sliced
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
Sugar, salt, and pepper, to taste
2 servings of your favorite pasta
Olive oil
2 sprigs fresh basil
1 sprig fresh mint
2 servings of roasted, rested lamb (sea salt, minced rosemary, fresh pepper, garlic, and olive oil rubbed over lamb roast and cooked "low-and-slow" at 170C/330F until desired doneness)

Stir raisins into verjus or fruit juice mixture and cook over low heat until the raisins have plumped. Set aside, reserving the juice.

While your raisins are busy plumping, chop, slice and dice the green tomato, spring onion, and herbs. Toss the tomato and onion into a medium-hot pan and saute gently, re-adding the raisins and liquid in once the onions become translucent. Cover and simmer while setting your pasta to boil.

Drain the pasta and keep warm with a lid, drizzling with just a touch of olive oil to prevent clumping, stirring the chopped basil and mint in with the pasta as it cools.

Uncover the green tomato sauce, seasoning to taste with dashes of salt, pepper, and sugar until it makes you swoon, reducing the liquid to intensify flavors. If you have some pan drippings from your roast, add these to the sauce judiciously, as they may be very oily. Stir in the peas and warm through.

Stir together pasta and sauce and arrange in the center of each plate. Lay a few slices of warm, medium-rare to medium lamb over top the pasta and serve. If you aren't a fan of lamb, this recipe would work beautifully with nearly any meat you can imagine, or alone as a summery vegan dish.

Oh, and if you still have a few slices of green tomato left over...whip up a real Southern, down-home meal with some fried green tomatoes. Here's my quick recipe for this crispy, tart treat.

For a crunchy, tasty tomato, start with some chicken. Don't laugh! I'm serious. Get together a few drumsticks, wings, breasts, whatever you like, some good frying oil and a deep pot. Heat the oil while you mix up some self-raising flour, salt, lemon pepper, cayenne, oregano, marjoram, and whatever else makes you smile. In a second bowl, whisk together egg and a splash of milk.

Once the oil is hot enough to sizzle, but not enough to smoke, dredge each piece of chicken in the egg wash, then into the flour mixture, shaking off all excess. Re-dip into the wash, then again into the flour, then (with long tongs!) lay gently into your hot oil, being careful not to overcrowd.

While the chicken fries, soak sliced green tomato in the egg and milk wash. Add a good sprinkling of cornmeal or fine polenta to the flour mixture, and a little extra salt.

Remove the chicken and set to drain over paper towels, covered loosely with a piece of foil or a warming lid, then double-dip those beautiful green tomato slices just like you did with the chicken. Fry them in the same oil, making sure to evenly brown both sides. Drain and serve with some cool sliced beets, a big pile of steamed peas and carrots, and a tall glass of sweet iced tea, cryin' out "Oooo Lawdy," as you dive into these Dixie dishes.

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