After the frost: Delicious ideas for green tomatoes

The first frost arrived, as they all do, much too soon, leaving a lot of serious vegetable gardeners with green tomatoes lined up on the windowsill (or stored in a box with a banana) to ripen. If you picked green tomatoes before the weather got cold, you can be eating fresh red salad tomatoes into November. But if your fruits have been exposed to temperatures below 40º, chances are they won’t ripen or become red and juicy. What to do? Eat green tomatoes.

Frying them is a classic way to get the most out of this last-of-the-summer indulgence. Just chop a couple up and throw them into your chicken or beef stew. It’ll add a pleasant tart flavor. Or, it you want to be more formal, here are four recipes for you to try.

Fried Green Tomatoes Iowa Style

Anyone who has been the Minnesota State Fair (that would be about a million and a half of you out there) has probably seen the Fried Green Tomato booth on the south side of Dan Patch between Cooper and Underwood. This classic Southern food is a huge hit with northern fairgoers. My version is more Midwestern than southern.

Fried Green Tomatoes Iowa Style

5 green tomatoes, sliced about ½ inch thick
1-cup cornmeal
Salt, pepper to taste
Spanish smoked paprika
Olive oil

Mix the salt and pepper with the cornmeal. Dip the slices of green tomato in the cornmeal for a light coating on both sides. Sprinkle the smoked paprika on each slice. Heat olive oil until smoking then add the slices to the pan. Lower the heat to medium. When the bottom gets golden brown and crusty flip each slice and fry until both sides are brown. Serve hot.

Green Tomato Salad

I ran across the following recipe in a faded paperback cookbook I’ve had for years, published in Burma in 1978 by Mi Mi Khaing, a highly regarded Burmese scholar and journalist. It’s a strange book, a little hard to follow sometimes with recipes like ‘Fish Pellets in Clear Oil,’ and “Danbauk or Pillau Rice Simplified to Burmese Taste,’ which has 19 ingredients. I did a little research on the book and found a reference to it in a tony design, travel and architecture magazine called Viewport. The article’s writer, Ian Macready called it ‘that essential cook book for everybody’s shelf’ and he included one recipe – my favorite green tomato recipe, titled simply,

Green Tomato Salad

Note: I’ve rewritten the cookbook’s original recipe for clarity

½ cup roasted peanuts
2 cups thinly sliced green tomatoes
¾ cups thinly sliced sweet or yellow onions
1 T peanut oil plus more for frying
½ cup finely chopped cilantro
3-4 finely chopped green chilies
½ lime
Fish sauce to taste (probably 1- 2 teaspoons)

Fry the onions until golden and put aside. In a food processor or blender, grind the peanuts to a powder. Just before serving, mix all the ingredients (including the onion) and mix. Top with fish sauce and squeeze the lime over the salad. Mix again and serve.

Medium Spicy Green Salsa

This is a classic salsa verde made with green tomatoes instead of tomatillos.

Medium Spicy Green Salsa

4 green tomatoes
1-2 sliced jalapenos, seeded with ribs removed
½ an onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic
A handful of chopped cilantro (to taste)
1 Tb olive oil
A small pinch of salt

Pulse in a food processor until chunky. Be careful not to puree. Add salt to taste.

Mid-Century Modern Green Tomato Hotdish

This is a seriously good, old-fashioned type of hotdish that will have you thinking that maybe the Ed Sullivan Show was right to televise Elvis only from the waist up. This is food from a time where no one thought much whether something was low calorie or heart healthy. Those were the days.

Mid-Century Modern Green Tomato Hotdish

5 green tomatoes, sliced about ¼ inch thick
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
¾ cup grated cheese (mozzarella, Swiss or cheddar)
3 dozen Ritz Crackers, crushed into crumbs
3-4 T melted butter
Black pepper, Cajun seasoning and lemon pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Layer half the tomatoes on a greased 9 x 11 inch covered casserole dish. Top with half the onion, garlic, cheese and seasonings. Add another layer of tomatoes topped with the rest of the onion, garlic, cheese and seasonings. Cover the top with the cracker crumbs and drizzle it with melted butter. Bake for 45 minutes, remove the cover and bake another 15 minutes until the crust is browned.

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Stephanie Fox's picture
Stephanie Fox

Stephanie Fox (stephaniefox2 at tcdailyplanet dot net) has a Master's Degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. She moved to Minneapolis of her own free will in 1984.