Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fried Green Maters with Basil, Goat Cheese, and Caramelized Onions

It is, in fact, easy being a green tomato
Seasonal food is currently my greatest inspiration in the kitchen. Often I feel horribly overwhelmed when  trying to teach myself to cook. With each day I feel more confidant in the kitchen and at the same time completely clueless given the oceans of knowledge that exist about the culinary arts. One day at a time feels too slow sometimes DAMMIT!
Farmers market provide me such joy, that I know buying what is in season must be my guide for now. Time and effort are the only two things that can really improve my skill and knowledge base in the kitchen, so why not cook with the freshest ingredients available. Triple bonus that fresh food also means local and good for the environment. There is no reason to bite off more than I can chew, pun intented, by getting myself worked up over all the things I have yet to learn.

Tomatoes are spilling over tables at the farmer's market right now. Given I don't like eating them, I am forcing myself to find recipes that include the lovely fruit/vegetable. More importantly I'm a southern girl and think its required by law to know how to make a good fried green tomato.

No, its even better than it looks. Even BETTER. 
I will try these again, tinkering with the coating a bit, but I really liked the mix of cornmeal and panko breadcrumbs. I was afraid only breadcrumbs would be to bready, but only cornmeal wouldn't give me the hearty crunch I was after. Combining the two was perfect, though I'll always look for a new way of breading.

The goat cheese idea came from a fantastic sandwich at one of my favorite local restaurants, Sunny Point. They serve a goat cheese, fried green tomato and bacon sandwich that is deadly. Basil is also common when serving green maters as an appetizer, so I took bits and pieces of dishes I like and combined them. The onions just happened to be occupying space in the kitchen so I decided to caramelize them. What a wonderful random accident that turned out to be.

Caramelizing onions is easy, just a bit time consuming. If you have never done it, check out this website that goes into a lot of details and has some nice tips: Caramelizing Onions Again, its not hard, but can be easy to mess up. Once you've done it a few times, it's easy to become a go to for a simple way to jazz up any dish. Bummer cooking onions down that much strips them of almost all their nutritional value. But sometimes flavor wins out, and caramelized onions will make grown men weep with joy. And not just because they were chopping them.

You can always just fry green tomatoes and serve with an aioli or on a bed of cheese grits. Caramelizing the onions took the most time, breading and frying the tomatoes, probably only about 15 minutes. Make sure you use firm green tomatoes, so they don't fall apart when fried.

Fried Green Maters with Basil, Goat Cheese, and Caramelized Onions

The Goods: Serves 2-3 as main dish
Fried Green Tomatoes: 
3 medium, firm green tomatoes
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup panko crumbs (or other fine bread crumbs)
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 egg
1/2 cup milk

Onions and Sandwich:
2 large onions, cut in half and sliced 1/4 inch
1 tablespoonish brown sugar
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

6 ounces goat cheese, softened
6 slices of whole wheat bakery bread, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1/2 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup grapeseed oil(or other flavorless oil), for frying
Salt and Pepper

The Deal: 
1. Heat olive oil on medium high heat in a medium non-stick skillet until oil is shimmering. Add onions and stir to coat. Spread onions evenly and saute, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, or until they are browning. Watch carefully to prevent them from burning. Add brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and reduce heat to medium low. They will take 30-40 minutes to caramelize, stir occasionally and reduce heat if they begin to burn.

2. While your onions are cooking, prep your tomatoes. Slice each tomato into 1/2 inch slices. Sprinkle with salt and place on a plate with a paper towel (or dish towel) and cover with another paper towel. Let sit for at least 10 minutes or up to 30.

3. Next set up your breading station. Place the flour and about a teaspoon of salt and pepper in shallow bowl and mix. Next beat the egg and milk in another bowl. Lastly combine the cornmeal and breadcrumbs in bowl.
Time to bread! 

4. Once your onions are done, remove from heat. Dip each tomato slice in the flour mixture, then egg mixture, followed by the breadcrumb mixture. Make sure you evenly coat the tomato in each mixture.
Place on a plate.

5. At medium heat warm grapeseed oil in a large saute pan. Wait until the oil is close to smoking, then add 3-4 tomatoes, being sure not to crowd the pan. Fry for 3-5 minutes on each side, or until browned. Set fried tomatoes on a plate with a paper towel and repeat with remaining tomatoes.

5. Toast the bread in the broiler for 2-3 minutes, until warmed. Assemble your sandwich: Place a good amount of goat cheese in even layer on each slice of bread. Then place 4-5 basil leaves on the goat cheese, followed by 2 tomatoes. Finish with around a tablespoon of onions. Adjust portions to what kind of bread you have, etc.
Serve immediately!

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