Sometimes we get green tomatoes in our weekly CSA share. Having grown tomatoes, we know that’s just the way tomatoes grow. They keep producing tomatoes, and some of them don’t get the time to ripen. Perhaps they’re knocked off the vines while harvesting ripe tomatoes, or, more likely, the season’s coming to an end and there are still a lot of tomatoes of varying ripeness on the vines, so you pick them before the first frost.
So, we know why we get green tomatoes, but we haven’t found a great way to eat green tomatoes. Sure, we’ve tried fried green tomatoes, and slipped a few green tomatoes into sauces to use them, and we’ve even made green tomato relish, but nothing stands out as a great way to eat green tomatoes.
Thus, we were happy to see a recipe for quick-cured green tomatoes with fried Sicilian pistachios in Gabrielle Hamilton’s newest book, Prune. We thought, what the heck, we have green tomatoes, let’s try it, figuring it can’t be awful. Now, we didn’t have any pistachios, Sicilian or otherwise, so we select the nut that we thought had the closest texture, pecans. Then we were off, scratchin’ out a new dish for lunch.
Not much to say except about the olive oil. We did use a good extra-virgin olive oil — not all olive oils labeled extra-virgin are extra-virgin you know, so be careful when buying — although once olive oil is heated, it loses its flavor. It might not be necessary, but it’s only a couple of tablespoonfuls.
Procedure in detail:
Slice tomatoes. Slice the tomatoes thinly and evenly. In Prune, the chef seems to cut them with a meat slicer. Restaurants and delis have those; we don’t, so we used a serrated bread knife and did the best we could to get even 1/8 inch thick slices.
Layer. Find a glass or ceramic dish, something non-reactive, as the tomatoes are acidic and will eat into things like aluminum, making the tomatoes taste bad. We used a glass pie plate. Place a layer of tomato slices in your dish, but don’t overlap the slices. Sprinkle with just a touch of salt, probably about 2-3 pinches. Then sprinkle with about half that amount of sugar. It’s not much, we know, but it’s enough. As needed, place more layers of tomatoes, sprinkling with salt and sugar as you go.
Quick-cure. Now, let the tomatoes stand. Yep, right on the counter (you never want to refrigerate tomatoes, as they get mealy and flavorless), for at least an hour or so. Ours sat for about 2 hours.
Plate tomatoes. We knew that once we were frying the pecans, everything would go quickly, so we plated the tomatoes first. Carefully place the tomato slices on a plate — use about 8 slices per serving — overlapping the tomatoes like shingles. Try to arrange them nicely — it takes a minute longer, but it’s worth it to eat well- presented food.
Fry pecans. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the pecans. They should sizzle. Stir or shake, nearly continuously, until the pecans are nicely toasted and crisp, but make sure to watch closely as they’ll burn. Once toasted, immediately remove from heat as they’ll continue to cook.
Top tomatoes. Distribute the pecans over the tomatoes and finish up by sprinkling just a bit of the olive oil over everything. Serve immediately while the pecans are still warm.
These tasted like bacon. Really. It tasted just as though there was a sprinkling of bacon bits right on the tomatoes. Which, by the way didn’t taste like green tomatoes. Instead of that sour green tomato taste, these were slightly sweet. Yes, we know that all sounds crazy, but it’s true. At our first bite, we both thought of bacon, and wondered, how can that be? It’s just tomatoes and fried pecans. And, even more interestingly, the tomatoes didn’t taste like bacon, nor did the pecans, it was only when they were together. Hmm. It’s like some crazy magical flavor trick going on. Just try it for yourself. We think you’ll agree. And you’ll agree that this is one of the better ways to eat green tomatoes. Four stars.