We went to the farmer’s market yesterday. And not just any farmer’s market. This is the North Carolina State Farmer’s Market run by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. It is huge, and it is open every day. According to their website, there are over 30,000 square feet of space for local farmers to sell fruits and vegetables as well as for nurseries to sell everything from hanging baskets to ground cover to fruit trees. There are also 15,600 square feet of “market shops,” in a climate-controlled (okay, only sort of) building selling everything from grass fed beef and heritage pork to free-range eggs, local milk and cheeses to baked goods and candies and non-food products made in North Carolina.
We had no real plan yesterday other than to find some delicious items and turn them into dinner. I must say our plan was a rousing success!
The best plan of attack that we’ve found is to walk the open building from end to end, sweeping eyes from left to right like Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator as he searched for Sarah Connor. Once the preliminary recon phase is over, we go back through, tasting samples whenever available and talking to the folks manning (peopling) the stalls. Phase III involves standing in line at the Conveniently Located Cash Points ATM to grab some money. Most of the folks do take credit cards and some even take checks, but sometimes it’s fun to pay with Folding Money.
While in line, we discuss the merits of what we have tasted and sampled and remind each other which stalls we’re buying from that day. Once we have our cash, we grab up all our goodies, one stall after another. This week, we came away with 2 quarts of peaches, 7 ears of white corn, 3 large green tomatoes, a pound of shelled pecans and a quart of yellow grape tomatoes. Nice.
I already had plans for the pecans and the peaches, but I wanted to use at least some of all the rest of it in our meal. We debated in the car and decided that fried green tomato burgers would be an excellent plan. After batting around some Roll Ideas, we decided on pretzel rolls. Hearty enough to stand up to a juicy tomato and a bit chewy to lend some texture.
To go with said fried green tomato burgers, I made an Israeli couscous and green lentil salad. It was delicious, pretty low in fat (only 1 tablespoon of butter for toasting the couscous and a little fat in some goat cheese. The dressing was straight up red wine vinegar with salt, pepper and herbs de Provence (I’m kind of on an herbs de Provence kick right now). There is no real recipe, but I will be happy to tell you what I put in it. The only rule is to season it until it tastes good and, veggie wise, to add what you like.
- about 1 1/2 cups of Israeli couscous, toasted in butter and cooked in water with salt and pepper
- about 1 cup of lentils cooked until just tender
- about 1/2 cup canned (or cooked) black beans
- some diced sweet onion (rinse and pat dry if you want it to be nice and mild)
- diced bell pepper
- kernels from 3 ears of white corn, steamed for two minutes
- yellow grape tomatoes, quartered
- 3 tablespoons of your favorite chèvre (I had some with basil and sun-dried tomato, so that’s what I used.)
- handful of pickled peppers–I used pepperoncini–thinly sliced
- red wine vinegar
- herbs de Provence
I’ll be more specific with the fried green tomato burgers, because they were pretty spectacular. I know they’re not really burgers, but since they are burger-shaped, the name stays.
Let me tell you a bit about these guys. The breading didn’t all fall off as can sometimes happen. It was nicely seasoned and really crisp. The tomatoes were hot, tangy and juicy. The drizzle of fig-infused balsamic vinegar provided some sweet-tangy punch. Goat cheese and green tomatoes are a fantastic match, and I spread some (don’t roll your eyes) chevre with herbs de Provence on both the top and bottom buns, which were toasted, thankyouverymuch. A nice handful of mixed spring greens completed the sandwich. This makes my very short list of Things I Will Make Again Exactly The Same Way.
If you can’t find exactly what I used, please use what you can find. And if you don’t want a sandwich, don’t make one. But make the tomatoes. They’re pretty ridiculous. Oh, and if you want to see some photos from the farmer’s market as well as a short video showing The Making of the Fried Green Tomatoes, check out my instagram feed.
For the tomatoes
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- several grindings black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning, (see Notes)
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup fine yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 6 large half inch thick slices of green tomato, (from two large tomatoes. Don't use the ends for this, just "center cuts")
- Enough solid shortening or peanut oil to reach a 1/2" depth in a cast iron skillet or other heavy skillet
- 6 pretzel rolls, , split and toasted
- 12 oz of your favorite chèvre
- lettuce/tender greens of your choice, (I used an organic spring mix)
- good quality balsamic vinegar, (an infused one is nice)
- good quality extra virgin olive oil
For the Tomatoes
- You're going to be setting up a 3-pan frying station.
- For station 1, combine the flour, salt, pepper, Old Bay and paprika. Spread out on a large plate or a rectangular baker. Set aside.
- For station 2, whisk buttermilk and egg together in a bowl. Set aside.
- For station 3, combine cornmeal, panko, salt, Old Bay and paprika. Set aside.
- Have a rack set up where you can place your breaded tomatoes.
- For each slice of tomato, dredge in the flour mixture and knock off the excess. It will stick in a thin coat on the cut sides but not so much on the edges. Worry not.
- Dip floured slice into the buttermilk mixture, making sure to coat both sides and the edges evenly. Let some of the excess drip back into the dish.
- Place the buttermilked tomato slice in the panko mixture and pack it onto the top, patting it down in a layer about 1/8" thick. Make sure to roll the edges in the breading as well.
- Place on the rack to let the coating set up.
- Repeat with the remaining tomato slices.
- Once all the tomatoes are breaded, let them sit about ten minutes.
- In the meantime, heat the oil or shortening in the skillet to 350F.
- Carefully place each tomato slice in the oil. Do not crowd the pan and don't let the tomatoes touch each other. I was able to fry 3 slices at a time.
- Fry for 2-3 minutes on the first side, until deep golden brown.
- Turn and fry another 2 minutes or so until that side is also deep golden brown. Remove to drain on paper towels. Repeat until all the tomato slices are cooked.
To Make the Sandwiches
- Spread about 1 ounce of goat cheese on both the top and bottom toasted bun.
- Top with a good-sized handful of lettuce or greens and then place a fried green tomato on top. Drizzle each tomato with about 1-2 teaspoons each of balsamic and olive oil.
- Top with the top half of the bun.
And that was dinner last night. It will probably also be dinner tonight.
Whether you’re a long-time fan of the fried green tomato or whether you’ve never had them before and frankly think that fried green tomato burgers sound sort of silly, you should make these. You will thank me. I promise.
Thanks for spending some time with me today. Have a lovely day.