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I should have seen it coming. The green tomato glut was inevitable by mid-August, when the first blush appeared on my tardy summer crop, and farmers at local farm markets admitted they were selling tomatoes trucked in from southern Ohio.
After more fickle hot/cool/rainy weather, my first picking ripened all at once in September, but the next wave was arrested by a nasty, early fall.
Although my tomato crop was meager, dinner last Thursday gave me reason to smile. Thanks to the bad weather, we dined on cornmeal-crusted fried green tomatoes with grilled shrimp, bacon, and goat cheese-thyme vinaigrette. Although I would have preferred a peck of sun-ripened tomatoes, that dinner was a fine consolation prize.
As with most of my recipes, the ingredients on hand dictated the meal. A clutch of green tomatoes, picked from the vines I yanked up and discarded, sat in a garden cart by the back door. In the fridge I found a few slices of bacon, half a log of goat cheese and a frozen block of raw shrimp my live-in sushi chef had brought home from his restaurant. With the pen and paper I keep on the kitchen counter I jotted down the outlines of a recipe, then filled in amounts and adjusted ingredients as I cooked.
Thick slices of green tomato are shallow-fried in a heavy skillet until the crust is crisp and the tomato just begins to yield to a fork. The burner should be on medium-high to prevent the crust from burning while the interior softens. The skewered shrimp are sizzled briefly in a grill pan or another skillet. I used two parallel skewers to make the shrimp easier to turn (they won’t slide around the skewer). Large shrimp will need no more than a minute over high heat. The bacon was cooked earlier in the day.
To serve the dish as an entrée, as I did, stack three tomato slices and lean two skewers of shrimp (6 shrimp altogether) against the stack. Shower the stack with bits of bacon and drizzle everything with the dressing. For appetizer portions, use two tomato slices and one skewer of shrimp.
Maybe an early fall isn’t so bad.
FRIED GREEN TOMATOES WITH SHRIMP, BACON AND GOAT CHEESE VINAIGRETTE
(Serves 3 as an entrée, 6 as an appetizer)
- 3 slices bacon, cooked until crisp
- Goat cheese vinaigrette (recipe follows)
- 18 large raw shrimp, pan grilled (recipe follows)
- 4 to 6 medium-large green tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1 tsp. salt
- Vegetable oil for frying
Cook the bacon until crisp; crumble and set aside. Prepare the vinaigrette and ready the shrimp for pan grilling.
Cut the tomatoes into 1/2-inch thick slices and choose the 12 best for frying. Place near the stove. Also near the stove place a shallow bowl containing 1 cup flour, another containing 2 beaten eggs and another containing the 1/2 cup cornmeal, remaining 1/2 cup flour and the salt, mixed well.
Heat a large cast-iron skillet or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, pour in about 1/4-inch of oil. When the oil is hot, coat the tomato slices very lightly with the flour, knocking off excess. Dip in the egg and coat evenly with the cornmeal mixture. Fry in batches in the skillet, avoiding crowding, until the crusts are golden brown and the interiors are soft but not mushy. Drain on papers towels. Add more oil between batches as necessary. When the last batch is in the skillet, pan-grill the shrimp.
For entrée portions, stack three tomato slices on each of three plates. Lean two skewers of shrimp against each stack, and garnish with crumbled bacon. Drizzle with dressing and serve. For appetizers, use two tomatoes slices and one skewer of shrimp for each serving. Makes 3 entrée or 6 appetizer servings.
GOAT CHEESE-THYME VINAIGRETTE
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. softened French-style goat cheese (chevre)
- 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
Combine olive oil, vinegar and salt in a small bowl or jar and mix well with a fork. Mash goat cheese into the vinaigrette, then beat with the fork until smooth. Stir in thyme. Beat again just before serving. Refrigerate leftover dressing.
- 18 large raw shrimp
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 12 short wooden skewers, soaked in water
Peel shrimp, leaving on tails. Place in a bowl or plastic bag with 2 tablespoons of the oil, mixing to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes. Thread three shrimp on two parallel skewers, leaving a small space between each shrimp. Repeat with remaining shrimp and skewers.
Heat a wide skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat bottom with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Cook shrimp skewers, in batches if necessary, turning once, until shrimp are barely cooked through, about 1 minute. Do not overcook; shrimp will continue cooking off the heat. Makes 6 skewers.
Selling cabbage rolls made from an Old World recipe is the latest fund-raiser from the clever Boy Scouts of Troop 334 in Uniontown. These are the guys who stage the free cupcake feast (http://www.cupcakecampakron.com/) each spring.
The cabbage rolls, made from a scout’s grandmother’s recipe, will be served from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Oct. 25. For $8, diners get two cabbage rolls, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, bread and beverage. Hot dogs will be available for picky eaters.
The event will be held at the Queen of Heaven Church’s Parish Life Center 1800 Steese Road in Uniontown. See you there.
From Patty S.:
Jane, I am trying to find Uncle Gizzy’s phone number in Florida. Last year we bought horseradish off of him. We would like to buy more to take to Colorado with us. Thank you.
Dear Patty: I don’t even know his real name. Maybe someone knows where the product is available in a local store in the off season. If so, I’ll pass along the information.
Will tomato sauce react with a stainless steel pan and give my sauce a funny taste? I know not to use an aluminum pan, but I’m not sure about stainless steel.
Dear M.L.: Acidic foods such as tomato sauce will not react with your stainless steel pan. Common reactive cookware metals are aluminum, cast iron and copper. Even with reactive cookware, I don’t think the food picks up enough flavor from the metals to be detected in most cases. A bigger concern is that the reaction between the metal and acid may cause light-colored sauces and soups to develop a grayish color when cooked for a long time.
I have read about the wonderful health benefits of sauerkraut if eaten raw and unpasteurized. It doesn’t seem that it would be hard to make if the ratio of cabbage, salt and the proper temperature are followed. Have you ever tried your hand at making it? Thanks for your help.
Dear Marty: I have never made fermented sauerkraut, although I’ve interviewed people who have. It’s not difficult to make, but to me it seems like a heckuva lot of bother unless you round up friends or family to participate in the project. First you have to shred all that cabbage, then salt it and pack it in a big crock with a weight on top. The fermentation process takes 4 to 6 weeks. And then you have to can it!! If I haven’t scared you off, you’ll find detailed instructions at the University of Georgia’s National Center for Home Food Preservation website, http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_06/sauerkraut.html.
I make a slap-dash fresh “sauerkraut” by wilting shredded cabbage with vinegar and salt in a skillet. If you want to try it, use about 1/2 head cabbage to 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar to 1/2 teaspoon salt. Wilt over medium-high heat while turning the cabbage with tongs. The amounts may be varied to taste.
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ABOUT JANE SNOW
Jane Snow is the former food editor of the Akron Beacon Journal. Her work has appeared in newspapers nationwide. She has won two James Beard Awards for food writing and has been nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize. She lives in Akron, Ohio, with her husband, Tony, a sushi chef and owner of Sushi Katsu, an Akron sushi bar.