Tomato, tomahto, or mater. Whatever you call them, it’s still a red, juicy fruit that shows up in the heat of the summer. And as the saying goes, “There’s only two things that money can’t buy; true love and homegrown tomatoes”.
Linda: I know people think this is strange, but I don’t love tomatoes. A delicious tomato sandwich just doesn’t have my name on it. But I do love tomatoes for use in Mexican food, especially tacos.
Lucy: I enjoy tomatoes and here in the south. I like to call them “maters.” It can be a challenge to find recipes calling for a slice of tomato except for salad recipes. After reading “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” by Fannie Flagg several years ago, I’ve always wanted to try making them. The book is set in Alabama, so I’m sure this is a southern specialty.
Linda: Actually, I’ve had fried green tomatoes at some local restaurants and they were surprisingly tasty. I’m excited to see the recipe you discover and have a taste of these green maters. I’ve discovered a new recipe using those abundant cherry tomatoes. It’s a recipe that went viral on social media called Baked Feta Pasta. It began with a Finnish blogger making uunifetapasta (Finnish for “oven-baked feta pasta”). As the recipe spread into this country, stores actually ran out of blocks of feta cheese.
Lucy: It sounds like an unusual and delicious combination of ingredients. I’ve read the recipe and the premise seems simple. You toss tomatoes and some olive oil together in a pan, add a block of feta, and bake it in the oven until softened, before mixing it all together with pasta and fresh basil.
Linda: Yes, I think there are a few variations, but the different recipes are basically the same. They all recommend buying good-quality feta for this recipe since it’s the main ingredient and flavor of the dish. It’s suggested to use a medium or firm Greek feta made only from sheep’s milk. Feta made from cow’s milk tends to be crumblier and more sour.
Lucy: I have another tomato recipe that is quite southern as it uses grits. It’s from Martha Stewart and is called “Martha Stewart’s Cheese and Tomato Grits”. It’s made in ramekins and each guest gets their own serving to enjoy. I tried it out letting my neighbors be my tasters and they all loved it.
Linda: Serving it in individual ramekins makes the dish seem special. It makes the grits and tomato recipe seem elegant. Let’s get our recipes out to our readers before tomatoes have disappeared from the farm markets.
Fried Green Tomatoes
Two large green tomatoes sliced 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 cup of flour
3/4 cup corn meal
salt and pepper to taste
Let sliced tomatoes drain on paper towels while preparing the rest of the ingredients. Place flour in a shallow bowl. Mix egg and buttermilk together in a second bowl, and corn meal in a third bowl. Heat about 1 inch of oil in a frying pan 4 to 5 minutes until hot. Dredge a slice of tomato in the flour then the egg/buttermilk and then the corn meal. Place in hot oil in fry pan and cook until brown on the underside and then flip over. Tomatoes are done when they are brown and crispy on the outside and tender inside. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve while hot. It takes about 10 min. to cook depending on how hot the oil is.
If you prefer to use a mix, you can purchase a box of Calhoun Blend Mill Fried Green Tomato Coating mix sold at IGA in Tryon. Follow the directions on the box.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
2 pints (20 ounces) cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 8-ounce block feta cheese, drained (Use a medium or firm Greek feta made only from sheep’s milk.)
10 ounces pasta like rigatoni, penne, or a spiral pasta
1 clove garlic, finely grated
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
Flaky sea salt, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Toss the cherry tomatoes and olive oil with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and several grinds of black pepper in a medium bowl until combined. Transfer to a 2 1/2- to 3-quart baking dish, place the feta in the center of the tomatoes and season with a pinch of black pepper. Bake until the tomatoes have burst and the feta has softened, about 30 minutes. Raise the heat to 450 degrees F and continue to cook until the tomatoes and feta are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes more.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 13 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then thoroughly drain the pasta. As soon as the tomatoes and feta come out of the oven, stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes (if using). Use the back of a spoon to smash the tomatoes and feta into a smooth and creamy sauce (it’s okay if some of the oil isn’t fully integrated). Add the pasta and half the basil and toss until evenly coated. If the sauce is too thick, stir in some pasta water a couple tablespoons at a time. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve topped with the remaining basil and a pinch of sea salt.
Martha Stewart’s Cheese and Tomato Grits
Two red ripe tomatoes
Four slices crisp crumbled bacon
One cup uncooked grits quick cooking or stone ground
Four cups water or milk
Two tablespoons butter
one cup of grated cheddar cheese plus a small amount to sprinkle on top of ramekin.
Slice tomatoes about a half-inch thick and place on parchment paper on baking sheet. Drizzle with a few drops of olive oil and place under the broiler for a few minutes. Cook grits as directed using water or milk. Milk makes them nice and creamy. When done add butter and cheese and stir until cheese is melted. Lightly grease 6 ramekins. Fill ramekin halfway with grits, top with a sliced tomato, crumbled bacon and a sprinkle of cheese. Place under the broiler until cheese has melted. Serve or keep warm in an oven with low heat.