The countdown has begun for when we can begin our daily diet of local garden-fresh tomatoes in salads, pies, tarts and sauces. But if you’re lucky, or can’t wait for the fruit to ripen into the luscious red (or yellow, orange or purple) orbs that make summer cooking and eating such a delight, you might happen upon unripe green tomatoes in your local farmers market or store.
I recently found a big pile of green tomatoes and immediately thought: Yum! Fried green tomato BLTs for dinner.
Some types of tomatoes are naturally green even when fully ripened (generally heirloom varieties), but we’re talking tomatoes that have been picked early before they’ve matured.
Firmer than red tomatoes, with a zingy, slightly sour taste, unripe tomatoes hold their shape perfectly when coated with cornmeal and fried to a golden brown. It remains creamy inside, which contrasts nicely with the crispy bacon and peppery arugula. This is one sturdy, satisfying sandwich.
If you feel the need for more protein, add a slice of cheese or a runny fried egg or both.
Fried green tomato BLT with herbed mayo
For the herb mayo:
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Freshly ground black pepper
For the sandwiches:
1½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
½ cup cornmeal
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup buttermilk
4 slices thick-cut bacon
2 or 3 unripe green tomatoes, sliced about ⅓-inch thin
Vegetable or canola oil for frying
4 thick slices of good bread
Green lettuce leaves or a handful of arugula
Place mayonnaise in a medium bowl. Add herbs and stir to combine. Season to taste with pepper and salt; set aside.
In a shallow bowl, stir together ½ cup flour and ½ cup cornmeal and season with salt and pepper; set aside.
In a second shallow bowl, stir together eggs and buttermilk until well combined; set aside. Place remaining 1 cup flour in a third shallow bowl.
Place bacon strips in a cold skillet, preferably cast-iron. Cook on medium-low heat, turning bacon occasionally with tongs so it cooks evenly until bacon is crispy. Remove from pan to paper towel-lined plate to drain. Alternatively, bake bacon strips in a 350-degree oven until desired degree of crispiness, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Dredge tomato slices in the flour, then dip in the egg mixture and finally in the cornmeal-flour mixture, pressing the slices with your fingers to help them adhere. Transfer the slices to a wax paper-lined plate.
In a large skillet (preferably cast-iron), heat ¼ inch of oil until shimmering. Add the tomatoes and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain the tomatoes on paper towels.
Toast bread slices in toaster until lightly browned. Spread one side of each slice with herbed mayonnaise. Compose sandwich by layering lettuce, fried tomato slices and then bacon on a bottom slice. Close the sandwich with a top slice, cut in half and serve.
Makes 2 sandwiches.