Grains, Like a Tomato

Today is November 6, 2016. There are so many reasons to be anxious. But in keeping with the theme of food, I’ll focus on my tomato anxiety.

If you were to ask me what my favorite food is, I would  start by listing the vegetables that I look forward to during the height of the Midwestern growing season. I would spout long lists, put them in order of the most-favorite, rearrange the lists and explain why the answer is complicated, and ultimately refuse to pick something.

But at times like this--Illinois winter looming, there is clarity. I know this, I think, because I start doing weird things. I count the packages of tomatoes that I froze over the summer, and I arrange them between my freezers--should I separate them so I will “forget” about some and be surprised later? Or should I make a list, and allocate them to certain months -- according to what holidays are coming, or how February it happens to be?

This year has been particularly terrible, because the process has been prolonged. The unpredictable weather has been creepily warm. So I have not been able to rip out my tomato plants. It’s not like they are ripening or anything, but there they sit, green, frozen in time, rather than just frozen. So as a way to distract myself, and encourage my hoarding behavior, we are eating a lot of green tomatoes around here.

There are a surprising number of recipes out there in the internet-recipe-world, so it may seem dull that I will focus on fried green tomatoes. But these are different. These are made with locally grown, organic, freshly ground cornmeal. And that, I discovered, is like a tomato.

There is a common understanding, I think, that there is nothing like a homegrown tomato. Once you have either grown your own, or picked one up from a farmers’ market, you will never buy a supermarket tomato again. The plump, juicy, tangy-sweet tomato you eat like an apple over the sink makes it impossible to put that mealy packing-material thing that was red, round, and had sign on it that said tomato into your mouth. And grains, I discovered, are quite the same. The package of tasteless tooth-breaking cornmeal that you get at the grocery store is not the same thing as the freshly milled cornmeal you get directly from your farmer-- that actually tastes like corn!

Now for the math. Use your freshly ground cornmeal, and your green tomatoes, and make something new--a fried green tomato that is fit for a meal. I went ahead and stacked it with a salmon burger, and it made for a mouth watering summer send-off.

Recipes

Yogurt Dill Sauce

Ingredients

1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
2 T fresh dill, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients, mix well, and keep in refrigerator while you prepare the salmon and tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes

Ingredients

10 small to medium green tomatoes
1 cup freshly ground corn meal
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 egg, beaten
3 T olive oil

Instructions

  1. Slice tomatoes in 1/4 inch slices
  2. Mix cornmeal, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish
  3. Dip slices, one at a time, into beaten egg
  4. Dredge in cornmeal, salt, and pepper mixture
  5. Arrange in one layer in a hot cast-iron pan (or other frying pan)
  6. Cook for about 1 minute on each side
  7. Remove and set on a paper towel lined plate

Salmon burgers

Ingredients

1 pound flaked salmon, drained
1 large shallot, minced
1 T chives, minced
1 medium celeriac root, peeled and grated (may substitute sliced celery)
1 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 T fresh dill, chopped
oil to coat pan

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well with hands or a fork
  2. Shape into 3/4 inch patties, will make 8-10 small burgers
  3. Cook in an oil coated  hot cast-iron pan for 1-2 minutes on each side
  4. Arrange patties on plates with a few fried green tomato slices and a dollop of yogurt-dill sauce