Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: tomatoes

 

America is a melting pot that was formed by the hard-working people who migrated here from lands as far east as China and Japan, as far north as Russia and Europe. They utilized American supplies and prepared them in ways that they had prepared them in their homeland. True American food is a collection of these culinary traditions passed down from generation to generation”.Each culture brought its cooking methods, food, and spices to America. They farmed the soil, hunted game, and incorporated their ways into the food of America.

The first time most Americans heard of fried green tomatoes was when a movie by that name came out in 1991. Based on a novel by Fannie Flagg called Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.

According to the Smithsonian spokesperson:

They took us to a neighborhood hole-in-the-wall that served simple Southern fare. The whole meal was delicious, as I recall, though the only dish I can remember clearly was the fried green tomatoes. Now, I know that most things that taste good taste even better when battered and deep-fried. But something about this dish was extraordinary—the combination of firm-fleshed tomato with crunchy cornmeal coating, the slight tartness of the unripe fruit balancing the oiliness of the exterior. I was smitten.

The New Orleans visit was our first stop on a road trip to Chicago. (Now, why didn’t I remember this story for Inviting Writing, instead of my sad tale of food-borne illness?) I kept looking for fried green tomatoes everywhere we went. Although I ate lots of other good things on that trip, I found my new favorite food only once more, at an upscale restaurant in Memphis. They were a disappointment—over-seasoned and overcooked.

The next time I encountered fried green tomatoes was almost a decade later at a rural county fair in, of all places, upstate New York. Served at a corn farmer’s food stand, they were not what I had come to believe was traditional Southern-style—they were more like a corn fritter with a slice of green tomato nestled inside—but I have enraptured once again.

The reason I say “ostensibly Southern” is that it turns out, fried green tomatoes may have been as unusual in the South before 1991 as they were everywhere else. In fact, according to Robert F. Moss, a food historian, and writer in South Carolina, “they entered the American culinary scene in the Northeast and Midwest, perhaps with a link to Jewish immigrants, and from there moved onto the menu of the home-economics school of cooking teachers who flourished in the United States in the early-to-mid 20th century.”

Jewish?!

Recipes in several Jewish and Midwestern cookbooks of the late-19th and early-20th centuries, but none in Southern cookbooks and hardly any in Southern newspapers. You can read the whole entertaining and informative account of how a movie changed (or distorted) culinary history at his blog.

Robert F. Moss, a food writer, and culinary historian from Charleston, South Carolina, said he doesn’t remember anyone in his Southern family who battered and fried green tomatoes. He researched the topic and found 11 fried green tomato recipes published in newspapers between 1900 and 1919. Surprisingly, all 11 newspapers were in Midwestern and northern cities. None were Southern newspapers.

During the 1920s, records indicate recipes for fried green tomatoes appeared in Frederick, Maryland, and Danville, Virginia, papers, but the Danville column came from a nationally syndicated source.

Moss found no recipes for fried green tomatoes in Southern papers in the ’30s and only one in the ’40s. There were none in the ’50s or ’60s, which intrigued him, leading him to ponder whether fried green tomatoes were a truly Southern dish.

The real-life Alabama cafe, upon which the fictional Whistle Stop Cafe was based, was owned and operated for 40 years by Flagg’s great-aunt. There is no evidence the cafe ever served fried green tomatoes. Archived menus make no mention of fried green tomatoes, although they may have been served as an occasional side item.

It wasn’t until the movie came out and fans descended upon the cafe requesting fried green tomatoes that they became popular. The new owners developed a batter mix for the more than 60 pounds of fried tomatoes they were selling every weekday. The cafe’s signature dish was invented after the movie premiered.

Based on his research, Moss concluded fried green tomatoes are not a Southern dish, but originated in the Midwest and northeast, possibly linked to the cuisine of Jewish immigrants. A recipe appears in the 1889 addition of “Aunt Babette’s Cook Book” and “The International Jewish Cookbook” from 1919. Other recipes appeared in Ohio cookbooks in the late 19th century.

The lone fried green tomato recipe Moss found in the ’40s appeared in the Dothan Eagle. I was reprinted from a U.S. Department of Agriculture leaflet advocating Americans should begin the day with something nutritious, like fried green tomatoes. The editor of the Alabama paper mocked the recipe, saying “no self-respecting Southerner would dream of eating a fried green tomato.”

Today, fried green tomato dishes can be found in many upscale restaurants. They are a popular menu item at The Greenbrier’s Draper Restaurant. According to one source, fried green tomato sandwiches have iconic status as the distinctive dish of The Greenbrier Classic Golf Tournament.

Chef Brian Halstead said he and his staff were using 500 or more green tomatoes daily during the 2017 tournament. The fried tomatoes were topped with bacon, arugula, goat cheese, and black pepper aioli.

With the use of high tunnels to extend the growing season and hydroponic tomato production, locally grown green tomatoes can be found year-round, but, for me, green tomatoes still signal the end of summer and a time to salvage unripened tomatoes dangling on the vines before they get nipped by frost.

Whether you believe fried green tomatoes are a quintessential Southern dish or of Midwestern origin, I hope you will agree, they are a tasty summer dish. There are three different ways to cook this dish. Use the method that appeals to you.

Ingredients

2 to 3 medium-sized green tomatoes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Cajun spice
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 egg, beaten

Directions

Place the flour mixed with Cajun seasoning in one shallow dish.

Add the egg to a second dish. Add a tablespoon of water and mix well.

Place the panko crumbs, cornmeal, salt, and pepper in a third shallow dish.

Cut the tomatoes into ½ inch thick slices and pat dry with paper towels.

Sprinkle the tomato slices evenly with salt and pepper.

Dredge the tomato slices in the flour, then the egg, and then in the panko mixture to coat evenly.

Place the breaded tomatoes on the prepared baking sheet.

To Deep Fry

Fry Tomatoes: heat the oil to 360º F and using a spatula or flat slotted spoon slide the coated tomato into the oil. Fry for 3 minutes on each side.

To Shallow Fry

Place a deep skillet with cooking oil about ½ inch deep; on medium-high heat. Heat the oil and place green tomato slices in hot oil and brown lightly on each side, careful not to over-brown the green tomatoes. I do mine in small batches.
Place on a paper towel-lined plate when done and serve immediately.

To Oven Bake

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Oil a cookie sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes, turning the tomatoes over with a wide spatula after 10 minutes.
Serve with your favorite sauce.


Seafood Salad Stuffed Shells

Yield: 28 Shells

Ingredients

1 box jumbo pasta shells
1/2 lb. cooked shrimp
1/2 lb. lump crabmeat
10 oz cooked lobster
1/2 cup finely diced celery
½ cup finely diced red bell pepper
½ cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 tablespoon fresh minced dill
Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Cook pasta shells per manufacturer’s instructions in liberally salted water.
Drain the shells and spread them out on kitchen towels to cool.


Combine the remaining ingredients to make a seafood salad. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of seafood salad into each jumbo pasta shell. Place the filled shells on a platter. Sprinkle the shells with chopped parsley.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. Makeup to 24 hours in advance.

Focaccia

Ingredients

1 lb pizza dough-my recipe
Olive oil
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
Coarse sea salt
¼ cup fresh thyme leaves or rosemary
Coarse black pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions

Oil a 4-quart baking dish or pam.
Spread the pizza dough out in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap.
Let rise until the dough rises almost to the top of the pan.
Top the dough with cherry tomatoes evenly spaced over the dough. Sprinkle with the remaining ingredients and drizzle lightly with olive oil
Bake 400 degrees F for 15 -20 minutes until golden brown.
Cool and cut into squares to serve.

 


Make my Chili recipe and serve it for dinner with a salad and chips. Save 1 cup of the chili to make the chili stuffed peppers another night.

4 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium bell peppers, washed, seeded, and sliced in half
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 cups leftover chili
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with foil, and spread olive oil over foil
Sprinkle the insides of the peppers with sea salt, and place cut side up on the baking sheet. I like to rub a little of the olive oil on the bottoms and cut the sides of the peppers.
Spoon chili into the peppers, and bake for 25 minutes.
Top with shredded cheese, and bake for additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and chili is heated through.

Corn with Tomatoes and Herbs

Ingredients

2 cups fresh corn
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups assorted cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

Directions

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the corn,, 1 tablespoon water, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Cook until the kernels are tender,3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chives, basil, and the remaining 1 tablespoon butter; toss to combine.

 


Tacos

I served these tacos with corn and tomato saute.

For 2 servings

Ingredients

4-6 inch flour tortillas
8 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon olive oil
⅓ cup jarred salsa
1 tablespoon canned diced green chilies
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup prepared coleslaw {My Recipe}
Jarred jalapeño pepper slices

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. You will need a taco holder.
Place the four tortillas in the holder. Set aside while you prepare the shrimp.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil and then add the shrimp. Cook until just beginning to turn pink. Tuen the shrimp over. Add the salsa and green chilies. Mix well and tune the heat to low. Let the shrimp simmer until completely pink.

Place the tortillas in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove the holder and fill the tacos.
In each shell place 2 shrimp, several tablespoons of cheese, coleslaw, and jalapeno slices. Serve in the holder.

Note
I like using a taco holder because it makes it so much easier to bring the food to the table and each person can take their taco without it all falling out.


Scallops & Cherry Tomato Pasta

Servings:2

Ingredients

½ pound dry sea scallops, tough side muscle removed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1-pint cherry tomatoes
1/4cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
2 oz thin spaghetti
Chopped fresh basil for garnish

Directions

Cook the pasta al dente and drain.
Pat scallops dry. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallops and cook, turning once, until lightly browned on both sides, about 4 minutes total. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Add tomatoes to the pan and cook, stirring once, until wilted 2 to 3 minutes. Add wine and capers; cook, stirring, and scraping up any browned bits until the wine is reduced by half, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in butter and pepper. Return the pan to low heat, add the cooked pasta. Stir gently. Divide the mixture between two pasta bowls and top with the scallops. Garnished with basil.

Asparagus with Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 bunch thin asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Table salt and ground black pepper

Dressing
1 large shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Adjust oven rack to uppermost position and heat broiler.
Toss asparagus with oil and salt and pepper, then lay spears in a single layer on a heavy-rimmed baking sheet. Broil about 4 inches from the heating element, shaking the pan halfway through to turn spears, until asparagus is tender and lightly browned 8 to 10 minutes.

Cool the asparagus for 5 minutes and arrange them in a  serving dish.
Whisk shallot, lemon juice and zest, thyme, mustard, and olive oil in a small bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle over asparagus and serve immediately.

 


Eggs and Peppers with Avocado Salsa

Servings: 2

Ingredients

1 large red bell pepper
1/2 avocado, diced
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/2 jalapeño pepper, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
1 plum tomato, seeded and diced
Juice of 1 small lime
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil,
4 large eggs
¼ teaspoon ground pepper

Directions

Slice off the top and bottom of the bell pepper… Remove and discard seeds and membranes. Finely chop the top and bottom end. Slice the pepper center into four 1/2-inch-thick rings.

For the salsa
Combine the diced pepper ends with the avocado, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, tomatoes, lime juice, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the bell pepper rings, then crack 1 egg into the middle of each ring.

Cover the pan and cook until the whites are set and the yolks are firm.
Spread ½ cup of salsa on each serving [late and place two pepper rings on top.


Tuna Steaks

2 servings

Ingredients

2 5-oz. boneless, skinless wild-caught yellowfin tuna steaks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup flour
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup green olives, such as Cerignola
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Season the tuna with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour. Shake off any excess.
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange the tuna in the skillet in a single layer and cook, turning once, until done to your liking (3 to 4 minutes for medium-rare). Transfer the tuna to a plate.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the shallot to the skillet. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, olives, basil, and a few grinds of pepper; cook until warmed through and the tomatoes are just softened, about 2 minutes more. Remove the skillet from the heat and gently stir in the lemon juice.
Return the tuna steaks to the skillet to warm over low heat.

Serve with the sauce and a pasta side dish.

Lemon Green Bean Pasta


Chicken And Vegetables

ingredients

4 chicken cutlets, about 2 lb
8 slices Prosciutto di Parma
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 small zucchini, about 1 ½ lb, sliced ¼-inch thick circles
2 cups diced plum tomatoes
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
½ cup finely diced red onion
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 cup shreddedMozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
Polenta, recipe below

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Sprinkle the cutlets lightly with salt and pepper
Wrap two slices of prosciutto around each chicken cutlet.
Pour the olive oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish and spread the oil over the bottom of the dish.
Layer the zucchini slices overlapping each other across the bottom of the baking dish.
Place the prosciutto-wrapped chicken on top of the zucchini.
Top the chicken evenly with the diced tomatoes, onion, and bell pepper.
Sprinkle the mixture with salt and Italian seasoning.
Bake for25 minutes or until the chicken registers 155-160 degrees F on an instant meat thermometer.
Sprinkle the cheese over each breast and return the dish to the oven. Bake 10 minutes or until the cheese melts and the chicken registers 165 degrees F.

Creamy Polenta

4 servings

Ingredients

2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups whole milk
1 cup polenta
¼ cup cream cheese
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Place the broth and milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add polenta, whisking to prevent clumping. Reduce heat to low. Add thyme and the cream cheese, and cook, stirring constantly, until liquid is absorbed and polenta is creamy and thoroughly cooked for about 10 minutes.
Add cheese and salt, stirring gently until incorporated.

To serve
Spread 1/4th of the polenta on a serving plate and top with baked chicken breast and vegetables.

 


Pork Cutlets

2-3 servings {easily doubled or tripled}

Ingredients

5-6 lean pork cutlets,½ inch thick
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup unseasoned Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 plum tomatoes, sliced thin
5-6 slices of mozzarella cheese

Directions

Spread the mustard evenly over the pork.
Sprinkle the thyme and pepper over the cutlets.
Coat each piece of pork with the panko breadcrumbs.

.Heat oven to 425°F. Spread the olive oil over the bottom of a baking dish just large enough to hold the cutlets.
Between sheets of plastic wrap or waxed paper, flatten each pork cutlet to about 1/4-inch thickness.
Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown. Top each cutlet with tomato slices and mozzarella cheese. Return to the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Swiss Chard And Mashed Potato Combo

Chard Recipe

2 cups cooked Swiss Chard
4 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 garlic cloves
Salt to taste
Olive oil

Directions

Cook the potatoes and garlic in boiling salted water until soft. Drain and return the potatoes and garlic to the pot. Mash well. Moisten with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the drained cooked Swiss Chard. Mix well, Heat over low heat until hot.

 


Springtime Vegetables and Eggs

6 servings

Cut all the vegetables into ½ inch cubes

ingredients

¼ cup olive oil
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 medium baking potato, peeled and diced
1 cup diced red onion
1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
½ teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil1/4 teaspoon drie4d oregano
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 cup leftover cooked asparagus {see recipe}
8 eggs, beaten
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Heat the broiler and move the rack down to the center of the oven.
In a large 12-inch ovenproof skillet or omelet pan, heat the oil.
Add the garlic. potato. Bell pepper android onion. Cook over medium heat until soft, 10=12 minutes. Add the seasonings, zucchini, and asparagus. Cook until heated through.
Pour the beaten eggs over the vegetable and cook over medium until the eggs are set on the bottom. Distribute the cheese evenly over the egg mixture.
Place the pan on the oven shelf under the broiler and cook until the cheese is completly7 melted and the eggs are set on top.
Let the frittata rest for 10 minutes before cutting into serving pieces.



%d bloggers like this: