It is almost summer and that means it is getting to be tomato time. The crown jewel of the farmer’s market is coming, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some of the fruits of the vine just a little early.
In the South, we have made an art of frying tomatoes before they turn ripe. The hearty green tomato is perfect for frying because it holds up to the heat while taking on a unique flavor that we all love.
It is also surprisingly versatile. It makes a great addition to sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers or as replacements for meats -- like in this recipe for Fried Green Tomato Parmesan Bahn Mi, in which the tomato takes the place of chicken parmesan.
The veggie base on this sandwich screams for more variation as well, as it easily becomes an elevated sandwich with pickled summer veggies, giving it a street food quality like the Vietnamese Bahn Mi.
The Bahn Mi is quite a story in itself, taking elements of French cuisine and joining it with the flavors of Southeast Asia into a sandwich that has taken the culinary world by storm.
Such a story of melding cultures in hard times fits well in the South, a true cultural melting pot of foods that borrow from every region of the world to create something all its own.
Food truly unites us all and breaks down barriers, for like a good sandwich, we are all better when we are working together.
Alex and Eleta Morrison live in Macon and write a food blog, Bungalow Kitchen. Visit their blog at bungalowkitchen.wordpress.com.
BUNGALOW KITCHEN RECIPE
Fried Green Tomato Parmesan Bahn Mi
FOR THE FRESH QUICK PICKLES:
1 medium summer squash
1 medium zucchini
1/2 medium onion
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
1/8 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
1 1/2 cup cider vinegar
11/4 cup water
FOR THE TOMATOES:
2 green tomatoes
Bowl of flour with salt, pepper, garlic powder
Bowl of yellow corn meal mixed with 1 1/2 cup yellow corn meal, salt, pepper and garlic powder
2 inches of oil in large pan
FOR MARINARA AND PARMESAN TOPPING:
6 campari tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion
Salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
4 slices fresh mozzarella
1 baguette, halved
4 basil leaves
To make the pickles: Heat the pickling spices and vinegar and water together in a deep saucepan. Heat until just boiling, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl and refrigerate 10 minutes. Slice veggies and place into glass mason jar. Pour liquid over veggies until all are submerged. Cover the jar and place in refrigerator until ready (can be done ahead and keeps up to two weeks).
To make the tomatoes: Slice the tomatoes to have four slices per sandwich. Dredge each slice in spiced flour, then the egg, then the corn meal mix. Let sit for 10 minutes.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat until a drop of water pops immediately when dripped into pan. Fry the green tomatoes four at a time about 3 minutes per side, until golden brown. Remove and drain.
To make the topping: Finely dice the remaining half onion. Heat olive oil in sauce pan and add onion and spices for sauce. Finely dice the campari tomatoes and add to pan. Heat on medium heat for 10 minutes and reduce to simmer.
To finish: Heat oven to 350. Slice baguette, but do not cut all the way through. Stack tomatoes and top with marinara and 2 slices of cheese each. Heat in oven until cheese is well melted (5 minutes or so). Top with plenty of pickles and 2 fresh basil leaves.
Serve with kale chips or the side of your choice.