By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3
We truly live in a wonderful time of home gardening.
So many people are returning to the ways of yore, raising chickens, eating yard-fresh eggs, sauteeing vegetables recently plucked from the backyard and otherwise enjoying the classics.
And no where is this more true than in the tomato patch. Luckily, I happen to know someone who is an amazing gardener and tomato-tender.
Her little patch yields hundreds of pounds of produce per season, and not much of it goes to waste. And those tomatoes…. Oh man, those tomatoes!
When I was a wee lad, I was known for my affinity for tomatoes and clams.
I know that I have written about the latter, but in 15 years, I am not sure that I have ever written about my tomato obsessions. And yes, it is an obsession.
In my high chair, I was tortured by my siblings (so the story goes) as they would pretend to steal my steamed clams and tomatoes. And quite frankly, if you tried to steal them from me today, we would probably find ourselves going head to head.
Of course, as luck would have it, this season has been incredibly dry.
As I don’t have the attention span to remember watering the garden daily in the middle of a drought, my garden has not been quite as productive as others, but that is just fine.
On the rare occasion that I can walk out and grab a Green Zebra or Cherry Chocolate Sprinkle Tomato, it makes me happy, indeed.
Recently, we had hamburgers and my girlfriend brought a batch of heirloom tomatoes over, preparing for us her world-famous fried tomatoes.
I believe her recipe is her mother’s, so I won’t share that. But I believe that I got it as close as possible to the original to at least get you started.
The main part of this tome is the tomato itself. I believe the varieties that we had ranged from German Johnson to Green Zebra to a Peach Tomato.
The Peach Tomatoes are the absolute best, as they have the two flavors that I favor the most: sweet and tart. Together in the same bite, it is delicious in a salad, hot off of the vine, or as we did here, fried and served atop a delicious burger.
When it comes to the burger, you can do as we do at the restaurant, and use a good blended burger. Ours consists of chuck, short rib and brisket and it is an outstanding patty.
But as we have seen in the midst of all things pandemic, we can’t always get the beef that we want.
In the case that you have to use a lesser blend, or if you just want to spruce things up a bit, add a spice or dressing blend to your liking and elevate the burger.
One thing that my girlfriend likes to do, and I might get in trouble for sharing this (not all chefs like to have their secrets shared) is to mold a patty of butter into the middle of the burger patty. Oh man, this does wonders to make a juicy, buttery and ridiculously tasty morsel.
Back to the tomato, since she uses ripe tomatoes, these will not hold their shape as a green tomato will, being unripe and much firmer. What you get in return, though, is a mountain of flavor from the vine-ripened fruit in all of its splendor.
There is something to be said for this, in that sometimes we must sacrifice the one in saving the other.
To add to this mayhem of flavor, we also added some Hungarian hot peppers that Dawn made last season as well as some bread and butter pickles made fresh this year.
As you can see, there are so many things that we can do with a garden.
I haven’t even scratched the surface either.
Shishito Peppers are growing like mad (flash-charred and served with a spicy mayonnaise is my favorite way to prepare these), the round zucchini, fresh herbs including mint for a mojito or two, Swiss chard, Jimmy Mardello peppers and the list goes on and on.
Once I get through this year (the first time that I have had a garden in the four years of living here), I will till the soil and clear some tree branches in preparation for next season.
And who knows? Maybe by that time I’ll have some chickens as well. It has become a thing, you know?
‘The Burger’ with fried tomatoes
1 burger patty of your choosing
1 ea. Potato roll
3 slices fried tomato (recipe follows)
Lettuce, as needed
Duke’s mayo, as needed
•Build the burger
•Eat the burger
makes about 6 slices
1-2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced about 1/3”
1 c. AP flour
1 tsp. Trimix or seasoning of your choice
1 c. milk
1 c. Panko bread crumbs
•Mix the flour and trimix on a plate
•With the sliced patted just a little bit to dry them, dust with seasoned flour
•Combine the milk and eggs well, and dip the floured tomato slices in the eggwash
•Coat in the panko and set on a paper towel
•Fry the tomatoes in clarified butter until the tomatoes are golden
•Serve immediately as they do not retain their shape as do green (unripe) tomatoes
— Paul G. Suplee is an Associate
Professor of Culinary Arts
at Wor-Wic Community College.
Find his ePortfolio at www.heartofakitchen.com.