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Recipes for Tomato Season

July 25, 2011

I walked into Spartanburg Regional Medical Center last week. I was visiting a patient scheduled for a procedure in the Heart Center. A kind lady in a bright blue lab coat recognized me and commented on my By the Way column in this newspaper.

“Dr. Kirk, let me show you something!” she said excitedly. “It’s a Cherokee purple heirloom tomato!”

“It’s a beauty!” I said admiring the prized fruit. “What are you going to do with it?”

“I brought bread and mayonnaise. This is going to be in a sandwich for my lunch!”

The arrival of vine ripe tomatoes in midsummer is a blessed event. Many of us enjoy these tasty treats in a variety of ways.  

I have been doing a little cooking at home. That is fine with Clare except for the inevitable mess I make. She tries not to fuss. After all, she thinks having a husband who cooks has to be good. The trouble is that Clare wants a husband who also cleans up after his trial-and-error experiments with Southern cuisine. Honestly, I do my best, but I sometimes fall short of her expectations.

Most of the food I prepare is straightforward and simple. Let me share two of my favorite tomato recipes.

Sandwiches have been a Neely family tradition for years. In our home some sandwiches are so messy they have to be eaten over the kitchen sink. Almost any ingredients can be used as long as the sandwich is overly stuffed and dripping with juice running off your chin and down your elbows. To fully enjoy these delicacies you have to lean over the kitchen sink while eating. Put a clean plate in the sink. That way, if an essential morsel escapes, it can be retrieved quickly and stuffed back into the sandwich or eaten directly.

Obviously, this dining experience is for one person at a time, unless you have a double sink. In that case, light a candle and enjoy a romantic dinner standing at the sink with your sweetheart.

Keep in mind, enjoying sink sandwiches requires two hands at all times. Do not drink anything until the sandwiches are eaten. Then gulp a tall glass of milk, swill sweet iced tea, or swig the beverage of your choice.

Neely Soggy Tomato Sandwiches were the item of choice for the annual Neely Family Fourth of July Picnic. In our home this is a favorite kitchen sink sandwich to be enjoyed while tomatoes are in season.

2 Vine ripe tomatoes

Duke’s Real Mayonnaise

6 Slices of white bread

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

  • Take six slices of white bread. Don’t use anything but plain white sandwich bread.
  • Slather Duke’s Real Mayonnaise heavily on all six slices. Only use Duke’s. Use twice as much mayonnaise as you ordinarily would.
  • Grind fresh black pepper on all six pieces of bread.
  • Slice vine ripe tomatoes thinly and stack them three layers deep on three pieces of the bread.
  • Salt the tomato slices.
  • Mash, not lightly press, the remaining three pieces of bread, mayonnaise side down, on top of the tomatoes.
  • Turn the sandwiches over and mash again.
  • Cut the three sandwiches in half.
  • Stand over the kitchen sink to enjoy these juicy sandwiches.

 

Kirk’s Spicy Fried Green Tomatoes is a classic Southern recipe. There are many variations. This is our favorite. Warning: This preparation is messy.

4 Large green tomatoes, (all green, no pink, hard as a rock)

2 Eggs

1 Cup buttermilk

1 Cup all-purpose flour

1 Cup cornmeal

Crushed red pepper flakes

Garlic powder

Coarsely ground salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Red pepper humus

Jalapeño pimento cheese

Sour cream or goat cheese

Vegetable oil for frying

Dredging:

  • Slice tomatoes 1/2 inch thick. Discard the ends.
  • You need to use four bowls.
  • Into the first bowl pour only half of the buttermilk, and dip tomato slices.
  • Into the second bowl put the flour only, and lightly dip tomato slices covering both sides.
  • Into the third bowl whisk eggs and the rest of the buttermilk together, and dip tomato slices covering both sides.
  • In the fourth bowl mix cornmeal with red pepper flakes, garlic powder, coarsely ground salt, and freshly ground pepper, and thoroughly coat tomato slices on both sides.

Cooking:

  • In a large skillet, pour vegetable oil (enough so that there is 1/2 inch of oil in the pan) and bring to medium heat.
  • Place battered tomato slices into the frying pan in small batches, depending on the size of your skillet. Fry a few at a time.
  • Do not crowd the tomatoes. Give them plenty of room. They should not touch each other.
  • When the tomatoes are lightly brown, flip and fry them on the other side.
  • Drain them on paper towels.

Serving:

  • On individual plates, spoon a heaping tablespoon of roasted red pepper hummus.
  • Place the first fried green tomato in the hummus.
  • Stack the fried green tomatoes three or four high with a spoonful of jalapeño pimento cheese between slices.
  • Top with a dollop of sour cream.  Goat cheese is also good on top.

You probably have your favorite ways of enjoying good summertime tomatoes. If so, I’d like a copy of your recipe.

Kirk H. Neely
© July 2011
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