Twice as Tasty

Fried Green Tomatoes

The firmer the green tomato, the better it holds its shape when fried

By Julie Laing
Fried green tomatoes. Photo by Julie Laing

One day soon, I will walk into the greenhouse and pull every tomato off the plants. Red, semiripe, green and hard – they’ll all need to come indoors to avoid being spoiled by frost.

With a small house and no garage, I find tomatoes ripen best in a single layer in wide, shallow boxes. I sort out damaged ones, spread out the keepers and stack the boxes in a corner, where I can peek at them regularly and grab ripening ones.

While sorting, I set aside the biggest, greenest and firmest tomatoes to fry. Like most of the world, I discovered this dish in my teens, first through Fannie Flagg’s book and later Jessica Tandy’s performance in the film Fried Green Tomatoes. When I started gardening in Montana and found a harvest of green tomatoes was unavoidable, I included fried ones among my end-of-garden treats.

Cooked this way, unripe tomatoes are surprisingly sweet and flavorful. I can eat them any time of day. For breakfast, they’re tasty topped with yogurt and salsa alongside eggs or fruit. As lunch, I pile them on greens with goat cheese. They work in sliders at dinner, and I can always snack on them with a squeeze of lemon.

The firmer the green tomato, the better it holds its shape when fried. Salting draws out water so that the egg wash and cornmeal can stick to the tomato slices. Patting dry removes most of the salt and moisture, so the fried tomatoes don’t taste overly salty.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Serves 2

2 medium to large green tomatoes

Salt to taste

1/4 cup polenta or coarsely ground cornmeal

2 tablespoons finely ground cornmeal

2 tablespoons corn or white flour

Pinch of garlic powder

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

1/4 cup sunflower or other high-smoking point oil

Cut the tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices. Sprinkle both sides generously with salt and lay them on a large plate for 30 to 60 minutes, until water beads on the slices and collects on the plate. In a shallow bowl, toss together the polenta, cornmeal, flour, garlic powder and pepper. Beat the egg and water together, pouring them into a second shallow bowl.

Pat both sides of each tomato slice dry with a tea towel or paper towel. Dip each slice into the egg wash, dredge it in the cornmeal until coated and set it on a large, dry plate. Continue this with the remaining slices, arranging them in one layer on the plate.

In a large cast-iron or other heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the coated tomato slices in a single, uncrowded layer. Cook them in batches if necessary, wiping out any cornmeal residue between batches. Fry for about three minutes, flip the slices and then cook another two to three minutes, until lightly golden on both sides. Drain on a paper towel on a dry plate, and then keep warm until ready to serve.