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Lick the spoon | Going green in the kitchen

From what I have read, green tomato recipes began with the end-of-season picking of all the fruits and vegetables in gardens before losing them to frost. But some dishes were so good that green tomatoes began to be a springtime treat for people anxious for something fresh after wintering on preserved foods.

For me, my intro to something other than fried green tomatoes was many years ago at The Oar House, a seafood restaurant at Fort Smith. Meals at The Oar House were a part of my visits to FSM - and there were many visits in my job supporting the Joint Readiness Training Center while it was at Fort Chaffee. It may be that the restaurant is no longer there, which would be too bad — their’s were the best frog legs anywhere. Their homemade Green Tomato Relish was a knockout and every visit included buying two or three jars if it was available — it frequently sold out.

But the point is that many people are aware of only one way to use green tomatoes — fried. But there is much more, with the fruit used in almost any dish found on the table. Here are some suggestions to try; some I have tested, some not.

One of my recent surprises is Green Tomato Pie, from a recipe for Southern Tomato Pie found in the 1876 edition of Tried and Approved Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping. You might find it difficult to tell it apart from Apple Pie.

The original recipe:

SOUTHERN TOMATO PIE. -

Stew sliced green tomatoes (not peeled) in a small quantity of water; for one pie, add one table-spoon butter, two of sugar, and flavor with nutmeg; bake with two crusts.

Here is the way I did it for a nine-inch pie. For my tastes, the allspice gave better flavor than nutmeg, though cinnamon would likely work well. Also, next time I will add about a half-teaspoon of cream of tartar for a little more tartness:

two piecrusts - mine were store-bought. Make your own if you wish.

4 green tomatoes

3/4 cup sugar

2 tbs. flour

3/4 tsp. allspice

1 tbs. lemon juice

3 tbs. butter

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Line the pie pan with the bottom crust.

Quarter the tomatoes, then cut into 1/8-inch slices.

Put the tomatoes in a mixing bowl, sprinkle with 1 tbs. flour and 1/4 tsp. allspice; toss to distribute the mixture evenly. Repeat with another 1 tbs. flour and 1/4 tsp. allspice.

Layer about a third of the tomatoes in the piecrust; sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar; repeat layers ending with sugar. Add the lemon juice, and then dot the butter on top of the tomatoes.

Cover with the top crust and seal the edges. Cut a steam vent in the middle.

Bake 40 -45 minutes.

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Of course, there is the fried green tomatoes. For those who never have tried them, here is an easy way:

Quick Fried Green Tomatoes

For two tomatoes (four to five slices each):

Slice tomatoes, perpendicular to the core, about a third of an inch thick so they stay together better when fried.

Make an egg wash using 1 egg and 2 tbs. liquid - this could be water, milk, beer, etc.. - in a shallow bowl.

Put about two cups of bread crumbs (plain or seasoned) in a mixing bowl. Some use Panko, but that has not worked well for me.

Heat two to three tablespoons of cooking oil in a heavy skillet. It is difficult to say how hot - it needs to be sizzling but not smoking, otherwise the tomatoes might scorch before they are cooked through.

Dip a tomato slice in the egg wash, toss to coat evenly in the breading, and lay it in the skillet; cook about 2 minutes per side. They should be lightly browned.

Remove and place on paper towel, lightly salt and pepper, serve; ranch dressing goes well with them.

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This relish is based on a recipe I found some time ago in The Atlantic Journal. The recipe is available online at http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2009/07/how-to-eat-summer-food.... It is every bit as good as the Oar House version.

The original recipe calls for Vidalia onions. While Vidalias are great in salads, for my taste the mild flavor gets lost in cooking. I used one yellow, white and red onion just for the look of it.

Be aware that the red pepper flakes will put fire to the relish so use it accordingly, or leave it out for the milk-toast palates among us…

GREEN TOMATO RELISH

Makes 9-10 cups

3 lb. (around eight) green tomatoes

3 medium onions

12 oz. marmalade

4 cups brown sugar

1 cup cider vinegar

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Coarsely chop the tomatoes and onions. Think of pieces that would set well atop a hot dog, or in a hamburger bun.

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan (at least 4-quart size) Heat on medium, stirring until well blended and the sugar is dissolved. Bring the batch to a low simmer for 40-45 minutes; stir frequently to avoid sticking.

The relish should be thick. If it does not seem “syrupy” then cook 10 minutes more.

Can it or put cooled relish in plastic containers to refrigerate or freeze.

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Local cookbooks usually include one or two ways to use green tomatoes. This pickle recipe is from Margaret Benafield of Lonoke and was included in the Lonoke Lioness Cookbook from several years ago.

GREEN TOMATO PICKLES

7 lb. sliced green tomatoes

2 gal. cold water

2 c. slack lime

2 qt. vinegar

4 1/2 lb. sugar

Spice Bag:

8 sticks cinnamon

1 tsp. pickling spice

1 tsp. celery seed

1 tsp. whole cloves

Soak green tomatoes in cold water to which you have added lime for 24 hours, then drain and rinse. Mix vinegar and sugar. Soak tomatoes overnight.

Make Spice Bag. Cook together for 40 minutes. Seal in sterilized jars. - Margaret Benafield

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This one is on my “To Do” list and I have not yet figured it out. If someone tries it, let me know what was done and how it turned out:

GREEN TOMATO PRESERVES.

Take seven pounds of nice, even-sized, small, green tomatoes, six pounds of sugar, three lemons, five cents’ worth of cloves and cinnamon mixed (use only half of this) and one-half ounce of whole ginger. Pierce each tomato with a fork, heat all together slowly and boil until the tomatoes look clear. Don’t use the seeds of the lemons. Take out the tomatoes with a perforated skimmer and lay on large platters and then fill in glass jars. Boil the syrup until very thick, pour over the tomatoes hot, and seal. This tastes like fig preserves.

FROM: Aunt Babette’s Cook Book; Foreign And Domestic Receipts For The Household; By “Aunt Babette;” 1889

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SALSA VERDE

2 pounds firm, green tomatoes, cored and quartered

1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 fresh green Anaheim (or other large, mildly-flavored) chili pepper, stem and seeds removed, quartered

3-4 green jalapeño chilies (for a medium salsa) or serrano chilies (for a hotter salsa), stems removed, quartered

3 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey or sugar

1/3 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves (coriander greens, dhania, etc.), coarsely chopped

Combine the green tomatoes, onion, chili peppers, garlic, salt, cumin, olive oil, and water in a stock pot. Bring to a boil and cook covered on a medium-low heat burner for approximately ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more water only if needed to maintain the most minimal broth.

Stir in and simmer for an additional five minutes the lemon zest, lemon juice, honey (or sugar), and cilantro. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning, if needed, by adding more lemon juice, honey, and/or salt, to taste.

Spoon the mixture (in batches if necessary) into the container of a food processor or blender and pulse until the salsa reaches the consistency you prefer, either chunky or a smooth puree. Makes approximately one quart of salsa, which should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. This recipe may be doubled or tripled.

http://moderncomfortfood.com/2010/09/green-tomato-salsa-verde/

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This recipe is verbatim from the Sept. 2004 Gourmet - I am sure that using plain ham and bay leaves of unknown origin as well as any vegetable oil will be just fine. The optional dollop of sour cream could be skipped but any excuse to eat sour cream is a good one.

GREEN TOMATO SOUP

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 oz thinly sliced Black Forest ham, chopped (1/2 cup)

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced scallions (from 1 bunch)

1 tablespoon chopped garlic (2 cloves)

1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf

2 lb green unripe tomatoes, chopped

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Garnish: sour cream (optional)

Heat oil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook ham, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add scallions, garlic, and bay leaf and cook, stirring occasionally, until scallions are tender and lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add tomatoes, broth, water, salt, and pepper and simmer, partially covered, until tomatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Discard bay leaf and season soup with salt and pepper.

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Green-Tomato-Soup-230446

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