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Fried & Griddled Green Tomatoes

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Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes are as deeply rooted in Southern culture as a field of kudzu. I have a confession. I am not a huge fan of Fried Green Tomatoes, the vegetable. (I love the movie!) Fried Green Tomatoes served piping hot and fresh out of the skillet can be pretty good. But, usually, sadly they always seem to be soggy, greasy, and dull, best suited as a delivery device for rémoulade (old school) or goat cheese (new school). Ha! Are you ready to take away my “Southerner” card? Well, read on…you won’t believe it.

Old Fashioned Fried Green Tomatoes

Whistle Stop Cafe

The movie Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café is a sweet story, and unlike most “Southern movies,” the accents are not too bad. One of my favorite scenes is when the Kathy Bates character, Evelyn Couch, takes a plate of fried green tomatoes to Ninny Threadgoode, played by the incomparable Jessica Tandy, for her birthday. I have to admit – and I am not kidding – all I can think about when she delivers those tomatoes is how soggy they must taste.

Warm Griddled Green Tomato Salad

Recipe Inspirations

Recently, I needed to prepare a batch of Fried Green Tomatoes for a photoshoot. When the shoot was over I had worked up an appetite! I grabbed a fork and took a few bites. The tomato was still warm. “Hmm, that’s pretty good.” Cleaning up the kitchen and still noshing, I snagged up a stray piece of raw tomato on the cutting board. Wow! It was so different from the fried slice. The bite was tangy, crisp, and sharp. I loved the bright lemon-like acidity and the crunch.

Usually, when I have a moment like that in the kitchen, one that gets my taste buds that excited, also means I also start thinking about how to use that flavor or ingredient in a dish. I wondered, wonder what that would taste like simply cooked without the egg, flour, cornmeal, and oil? How can let this vibrancy shine? Tasting the firm, green tomato raw, I thought, “Why not simply griddle them?”

I quickly grabbed a skillet and spritzed it with a misting of oil. Slipping a slice of unseasoned tomato into the pan I left it untouched until it was dappled with brown spots on the underside. (unsalted because salt pulls the moisture out and it needed to be as dry as possible.) I flipped it and cooked it for a few more minutes until the slice of green tomato was tender to the point of a knife. Excited, I sprinkled over a few grains of sea salt and cut off a piping hot bite to give it a taste. It was vibrant and bright, tender yet toothsome. It was a revelation. I added a bit of corn to mirror the taste of the cornmeal and charred a Vidalia onion for sweetness. A new vegetable dish was born. Sour, salty, bitter, sweet, and savory. It’s the quintet that makes a dish really sing.

Warm Griddled Green Tomato Salad

Blistered, not Burnt

There’s a technique often used in Latin American cooking in that tomatillos, tomatoes, and onions are cooked in a hot skillet until charred and blistered. The vegetables are then pureed to create the base of salsa or soup such as tortilla soup or posole. The heat tempers the acidity in the tart tomatillo and the crispy bits add both flavor and texture. The vegetables are imbued with a subtle smokiness. It’s one of my favorite cooking techniques for building layers of flavor.

Southern Food

Discoveries like this are a pure joy to me in the kitchen. I also love looking at traditional recipes and ingredients and flipping them on their head. I insist that Southern food is a living, breathing, changing cuisine. Southern food doesn’t belong in a museum and is not only the realm of twinkly-eyed grandmothers. I’ll take my “Southerner” card back! How is it that I have never had green tomato any other way but fried?! And, you know what? I feel absolutely certain that Ninny would like my new version of Green Tomatoes, too.

I’m including recipes for both old-fashioned Fried Green Tomatoes and my new Griddled Green Tomates. Give one or both a try and please let me know what you think!

Bon Appétit, Y’all

Virginia Willis

Warm Griddled Green Tomato Salad

Warm Griddled Green Tomato Salad

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Course: Appetizer, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Southern
Keyword: green tomatoes, vegetables, warm salad
Servings: 4
Author: Virginia Willis

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 large green tomatoes sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 1 Vidalia onion sliced
  • 2 ears corn kernels removed
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
  • 12 or so cherry or grape tomatoes halved
  • handful of herbs such as basil parsley, and cilantro
  • Rémoulade, Ranch Dressing, or Creole Ranch, for serving
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Heat a large cast iron skillet over high heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sliced tomatoes without crowding. Cook on one side until the undersides are blistered, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes until the tomatoes are tender and speckled on both sides. Set aside and keep warm.
  • Add the corn to one side of the skillet and the onions to the other. Cook until the vegetables are blistered and charred, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the corn and onions to a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add vinegar, oil, cherry tomatoes, and herbs. Toss to combine.
  • Transfer the corn and onions to a platter. Top with griddled tomatoes. Serve immediately with dipping sauce on the side.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes

Course: Appetizer, Side Dish, starter
Cuisine: Southern
Keyword: fried food, fried green tomatoes
Servings: 6
Author: Virginia Willis

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs lightly beaten
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup fine white or yellow cornmeal or a combination of both
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup peanut or canola oil
  • 4 to 6 medium firm green tomatoes cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick

Instructions

  • Break the eggs into a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Combine the cornmeal and flour in a second shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  • Line a plate with paper towels and set near the cooktop.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working a few at a time, season the tomato slices lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Dip the tomato slices into the egg mixture and shake off the excess. Place the dipped slices in the cornmeal mixture, sprinkle breading over, and press to adhere. Turn over and repeat to coat on both sides. Gently shake off the excess and place without crowding in the heated skillet.
  • Fry the tomato slices until they are golden on one side, about 3 minutes, then gently turn them with an offset spatula or metal turner and continue cooking until golden on the other side. Remove them to the prepared plate. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

 

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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 1 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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