[NOTE: I wrote this article for the March 26th edition of Expat Living in The Korea Herald]
Expect to get funny looks. We are heading into the early throes of tomato season. We are so early that many tomatoes at the market will be green. I have been given quizzical comments by grocers when I select green tomatoes from a pile of perfectly red ones. Red tomatoes are good and fine, but green “˜maters have a certain zest and firmness that make them perfect for frying.
Frying? Tomatoes? Outside of the southeastern United States, fried green tomatoes is not much more than a sobby movie starring the mom from “Weeds” and the crazy lady from “Misery.”
Make sure you get green, green tomatoes. Any hint of red or pink will make them soggy in the end. Slice them fairly thickly. In one bowl, combine two cups of milk with a tablespoon of vinegar and a few dashes of hot sauce. In another bowl, combine two cups of flour with a liberal bit of salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning, if you have any. Heat around a quarter of an inch or half a centimeter of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Dip the tomato slices in the milk then coat them in flour. Fry them in the oil in small batches, turning them after each side turns brown. Drain them on a rack.
Here’s a good little sauce for the fried green tomatoes. Char a couple of Korean peppers over a gas flame using a pair of metal tongs. Make sure they’re all good and blackened. Put them in a plastic bag for fifteen minutes. Rinse the charred skin off the peppers, slice them open, remove the seeds and chop them finely. Combine the peppers with a cup of mayonnaise, a quarter cup of mustard, the best you have, some lemon juice and a tablespoon of wasabi. If you have a blender blend the mixture until it’s smooth and creamy. This sauce can go on more things than fried green tomatoes.
Even better, if you can get your hands on some bacon, toast some bread, get a variety of lettuce leaves from your local grocer and make a fried green tomato BLT using the tarted up mayo you just made.
A great side for this or any spring or summer meal is an Asian coleslaw. In a blender, combine a half cup of peanut butter, a quarter cup of water, two tablespoons of rice vinegar, two tablespoons of honey, one tablespoon of soy sauce, a teaspoon of sesame oil, three cloves of chopped garlic, a small knob of finely chopped ginger, a chopped green onion and a good pinch of Korean chile powder. Pulse blend it until it is smooth and creamy. Combine the dressing with a head of shredded cabbage, a shredded white onion and three shredded carrots. Garnish with peanuts, sunflower seeds and crushed uncooked ramyeon noodles.
So don’t worry about the strange looks from the produce guy. He doesn’t know what he’s missing, unless you get the hankering to share your concoctions with him and the neighbors. The crunchy zesty tomatoes with the bright coleslaw help bring spring in much faster.