The garden I share with my friends, Karen and Kate, has a tomato jungle. The three plants have over run three concentric layers of “cages.” They’re now trying to colonize the carrots.
Unrelenting weeks of sun and heat have battered our 10 by 14 foot plot in Karen’s backyard. LA’s water rationing has taken its toll as well. No matter. The tomatoes seem to ripen from pearl green to bloody red as you watch.
We know that soon – very soon – we’ll be overrun with ripe tomatoes. We wait. We watch. We talk about canning, tomato sauce, salsa and ratatouille.
Impatient for the harvest, we’ve been experimenting with fried green tomatoes. It’s a preview of what’s to come. It’s a wonderful summer supper. And it’s a delicious way to thin the vines for better growth.
The following recipe is “faux fried” because it’s baked. The oil in frying can overpower the delicate flavor of baby tomatoes. I refer to coral tomatoes because their cooked flavor will send you to a siddur for a blessing that might go like “Thank you, Shekinah, for allowing me to savor your greatness, to celebrate my senses and to wonder at the beauty of your creations. Bless me with the ability to reflect all that you have given me in this moment back into the world. Amen.”
Any tomato up to a ripe one can be fried (or faux fried). We searched out sister tomatoes in clusters that had an almost ripe tomato. Despite my elegy to coral tomatoes, don’t pass up on the green ones.
Faux Fried Coral Tomatoes
4 to 6 green to coral tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch thick slices
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup water
Salt and pepper
1.5 cups Panko flakes (These are Japanese-style bread crumbs made of wheat flour and soybeans, among other things. They don’t carry a hechsher. Corn meal is traditional for breading fried green tomatoes. Matzoh meal could be used as could seasoned bread crumbs or corn flake crumbs mixed with a little Parmesan.)
Sprinkle the tomato slices with salt and pepper on each side. Grease a large shallow baking pan or cooking sheet. Turn the oven on to 400 degrees.
Mix the beaten eggs, milk and water in a shallow bowl. Put the Panko flakes (or cornmeal, matzoh meal or flour) in another shallow dish. Dip each slice into the liquid, then coat on both sides with crumbs. (For a thicker coating, do this step twice for each slice.) Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer in the prepared pan. The slices should not touch. Bake 10 minutes. Turn each slice over. Bake another 10 minutes. Serve.