Saturday, April 28, 2012

TaWanda! Fried Green Tomatoes

Sorry for the delay friends, I’ve found out I am susceptible to writers block. I wanted to write about a farm market that I discovered, but after four different attempts, I am going in a different direction.  By trade, I am a PR person; most of my clients have been restaurants, and wine stores. After reading what I had written, I thought it was too much of a PR pitch and not a blog. So, scrapping those, here’s today’s blog. I will be including a little about the farm market, but it won’t be the topic, just an added note. 

It’s Saturday morning and last night, I made two of my childhood favorites for dinner... Fried Green Tomatoes and fresh Black-eyed peas.

Long before the movie, I had eaten my fair share of these tart, crunchy rounds of happiness.  My grandmother Flora Bell, my mom Shirley Ann and my Aunts Roxie and Viva all had Fried Green Tomatoes (FGT) in their repertoire.  Since Jessica Tandy, Kathy Bates and the cast of this charming flick, this dish has become popular in both casual and fine dining restaurants around the country. Chefs add their own twist on this Americana classic with spices, different crusts and sauces, but personally, when it comes to FGT's, I’m a purist... no need to change what my family has made for the past decades. Simply put, it’s just that good.  By the way, there is an actual Whistle Stop Café in Juliette, Georgia.  After filming the movie, building owners kept the café going. My husband and I discovered it on a vacation a few years ago. We couldn't help ourselves, we ate their FGT's and they were pretty good!

When you watch Jessica Tandy’s character Ninny bite into her birthday present, you can taste how good they are. Every time I watch this movie, I get a craving to make them.  What can I say about this dish... with the first bite, the cornmeal crunch resonates in your mouth, then the tartness and creaminess of the unripe tomato draws you in, and if you’re like me, you’re hooked.  Last night, I made them along with pan-seared pork chops, and another childhood favorite, Black-eyed peas. My husband told me that he thought the tomatoes stole the show. Thank you honey!  No matter what side of the gourmet street you are, FGT's are without a doubt a delicious addition to our nation’s culinary history.   Speaking of history, I found an interesting article about Fried Green Tomatoes in a blog for the Smithsonian. Here’s the link.... Interestingly the article says that food historian’s claim this might possible be a Jewish and Midwestern recipe, and that may be true, although I’m not Jewish, I am a true blue Midwesterner, albeit transplanted to Florida. 

My family’s recipe differs somewhat from other recipes. I found several including a Southern Living magazine recipe, that uses a “batter” rather than how my family does it, which is dip in flour, egg, and cornmeal.  Frankly, I’m not a big fan of the batter style.  I think it detracts from the purity of the dish. But that’s just my opinion, and I won’t fault anyone else for their preferences.  

Mama D’s Classic Fried Green Tomatoes

Two       Green Tomatoes sliced into eight even slices
1 ½ C.    Corn Meal
1 C.         Flour
1              Egg beaten
Salt and Pepper
Oil and Bacon Grease heated in Skillet

Combine 2 T. bacon grease and oil into skillet (cast iron preferred) about a ½-inch high. (I find the bacon grease adds an element of flavor to the tomatoes, and that’s how my family did it.) Place flour, beaten egg and cornmeal into three different bowls.  While grease is heating, dredge tomato slices in flour, then egg, then cornmeal.  Let tomatoes sit for a few minutes. Once grease is hot, cook in batches, carefully placing tomatoes into pan. Cook until both sides are golden brown.   Once they are done, I recommend tomatoes rest a few minutes; otherwise, you’ll burn your mouth badly!  Salt and pepper to taste. You may not need to add additional salt.  You might just catch yourself shouting “TaWanda!” after eating these goodies.

The other highlight from dinner last night was the Black-eyed peas. Boy were they good! During the preparation, cooking and then eating, these gems called the “caviar of the south” brought back a flood of childhood memories. I remember spending the afternoon on the porch with my aunt Roxie shelling peas. Thankfully, I got the last of the fresh peas from the local farm market. I spent a good 40 minutes shelling peas; it’s tedious, but so much better than the frozen or dried varieties. Don’t get me wrong; come New Year’s Day, I’ve got a pot of dried peas that I soaked overnight slow cooking on the stove with a big ham hock.  For last night’s dinner, I didn’t have a ham hock to add, but I did have some excellent Applewood smoked bacon, which worked just fine. Black-eyed peas have a lovely texture, if cooked correctly; they will pop in your mouth. The smoked bacon adds an earthly element to the flavors. You can add other ingredients like chopped ham, onions, or peppers... we called those additions fancy peas.  I can tell the difference between the fresh peas and dried, the fresh really do taste fresh, bright and lively.  For my peas, I simply shelled and rinsed them. I covered the peas with water, added four strips of bacon, salt and pepper (about a half-teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of pepper), brought to a boil and then let simmer for about 40 minutes.  In a black-eye pea shell, they are so good!  

I got my tomatoes and peas from the local farm market just down the road from my house. I recently discovered this Sarasota treasure with my friend Karen. Bins upon bins of fresh farm-grown produce. Mind-blowing fruits, vegetables, meats, Amish cheeses and more – too many to name. Since discovering this place, I’ve shopped there several times a week. Now, I don’t have to wait for the Saturday Farmer’s Market downtown. And, the prices are a-mazing! So much cheaper than the grocery store or gourmet market. I’ve been inspired to cook more family recipes because of this place. Unlike her granddaughter, my grandmother had a “fruitful” garden.  She grew juicy tomatoes bursting with flavor, snappy green beans, firm okra, tart crab apples and sugar sweet corn.   

Our dinner was a bit monochromatic. Normally, I try to add a little color for visual balance, but I was focused on the FGT’s and black-eyed peas, and this is what we got. Nonetheless, it was good!  Pork chops had a light sprinkling of dried thyme, sage, crushed fennel seed and celery seed  before I pan seared them.  I deglazed the pan with some leftover Riesling. 

Reading and proofing this blog, it’s so much better than the previous attempts... I hope that you will enjoy reading it. I love that I can share my culinary family history with you. 

It’s Just That Good has reached over 1500 page views. I see that I have readers in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Russia, India, Mexico, Germany, Philippines and the Netherlands. I am so honored that you all read my blog. It tickles me to no end -thank you very much! If you have comments, please feel free to leave a note, or share your own food experiences with me.  By the way, if you see an ad on my blog that interests you, please click on it, every click helps to feed my food blog obsession!

Next week’s topic... Corn Bread!

Until then... happy eating!
SRQ Foodie

No comments:

Post a Comment