miniature fried green tomatoes

Outside of my grandmother’s back door is a little space that holds a goldfish pond, a few chairs, a porch swing, and a teensy little garden she keeps in large flowerpots. The last time I was over there, she was poking at one of her cherry tomato plants with a scrunched up face that obviously said, “Why won’t these little boogers turn red?” After she repositioned the pots a little and refreshed the sun-drenched soil, she explained that they’d grown up really nicely and then they’d decided to plateau in that milky (yet beautiful) green stage that tomatoes go through.

“I’m just gonna show ’em who’s boss and toss ’em in a fryin’ pan and make fried green tomato bites. Hmph.”

Light bulb.

After we realized that that actually was a good idea, she tossed a handful in my car and I drove off, ready to experiment with those in-between tomatoes and thinking about how cute they’d be sitting next to a tiny piece of fried chicken or a miniature biscuit.

This is just a fun post. I don’t expect that any store will sell green cherry tomatoes, but if you have a garden and have some little tomatoes that haven’t quite grown up yet, you could try this just for kicks.

miniature fried green tomatoes
prep time: 20 minutes cook time: 4 minutes yield: 2 servings
8 green cherry tomatoes
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
freshly ground black pepper
cayenne pepper, to taste
1/2 cup buttermilk
peanut oil, enough to cover the bottom of a skillet

Slice the tomatoes to about 1/4 inch thickness and sprinkle each slice with salt. Place in a colander and allow the salt to drain the water from the tomatoes, about 20 minutes. Less moisture will result in a crispier fried tomato.
While the tomatoes are draining, mix the flour, baking powder, pepper, and cayenne in a bowl until combined. Add the oil to a skillet over medium-high heat.
Dip the tomato slices in the buttermilk and then dredge in the flour mixture. Add a small slice to the oil to test the temperature. If the tomato simply sits and nothing happens, the oil is not hot enough. If the oil bubbles up around the tomato, add the others. Fry for only a couple of minutes until golden brown and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

Alright, y’all, I’ve gotta run. The Gamecocks are playing in the College World Series in just a few and I’ve gotta go get my rally cap ready.


(deep) fried okra

Hurry! Hurry! Okra in South Carolina┬áis almost out of season! Go gather it up from the little shack on the corner or from the farmer’s market or from your own garden (props to you, if so, and take a bow) because it’s gonna be skedaddlin’ out of here pretty soon and won’t be back until next year!

Picture me stepping down from my little soap box on the street corner.

Okay, I’m telling you this a little late. So hold me down and stab me with okra pricklies and rub okra slime in my hair. I’m okay with that. Okra likes hot temperatures, so it tends to fade out of South Carolina around October…ish. Not a big deal. It doesn’t take long to slice and fry some up. Actually, real traditional Southern fried okra isn’t deep fried at all. It’s just tossed in a little cornmeal and pan-fried with salt and pepper, a contribution from Africa in the 1700s. It’s delicious that way and it’s delicious deep fried.

(deep) fried okra
5 cups oil (something mild, like peanut), for frying
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper (you may use more or less)
1 lb fresh okra, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk

Heat the oil in a large skillet (cast iron is preferred; it has excellent heat distribution) or Dutch oven to 350 degrees (hot, but not smoking). Fill the pan, at most, half way up the side with oil. You may end up using more or less than five cups.
Combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Dip the sliced okra in the buttermilk and then dredge in the flour mixture until well coated. I usually add one of the slices to the oil to test the temperature. If the oil sizzles up around the okra and you can hear it, it’s probably ready. If the oil isn’t hot enough, the okra will just sit there.
You may need to cook the okra in batches as to not overcrowd the pan. Shoving everything in there at once causes the oil’s temperature to drop, resulting in okra that chills out and soaks up the oil, AKA soggy and not crunchy. This recipe will feed about four people (depending on where your friends are from, wink) and you can easily double it. Or triple it. Or quadruple it.
Cook the okra until golden brown. It doesn’t take long, so just keep your eyes on the okree! Remove the slices from the oil onto paper towels and serve immediately.
(Eating freshly cooked okra is like getting pizza mouth [please, go to 7:40]. You KNOW it’s hot. You KNOW it’s going to burn. But, heck, you grab ’em and pop ’em anyway, and it is perfectly acceptable. That beautiful deliciousness just can’t wait.)

Okay! So, South Carolina is sputtering out its last breaths of air for okra (sigh, sigh, cry, cry), so if you are a summer person, cook ’em up now to get your last fix before the chilly months settle in! If you are a winter person (like me, yes!), have no fear. We are getting some good stuff, too. Root veggies, anyone?