Fried Green Tomatoes. I always loved the movie. A beautiful and heartwarming story of friendships past and present. As a bonus woven throughout the movie are references and stories about food. My first experience with fried green tomatoes was while watching this movie. Interestingly my mouth watered as I watched them being fried up at the Whistle Stop Cafe. They were covered in a nice coating of flour and fried up in an iron skillet, much like the one I have at home now. I wondered silently about those green tomatoes as I watched, “Were fried green tomatoes really good?” Still in high school at the time, I wasn’t much of a cook back then and the wondering never moved much past just wondering.
Flash forward several years later and I still had not tasted a fried green tomato. I don’t believe I actually had one until after I was married to Eric. He was the one that made them one night for dinner if I remember it correctly. Back then I was also married to my recipes and never really tried to make anything without one. I remember the first bite. Warm, tasting of sunshine, tart, with a crisp outer crust and a much firmer flesh than red tomatoes, it was utterly delicious. After a generous sprinkling of kosher salt I was in heaven and it left me wanting more. To this day a summer doesn’t go by without a side of fried green tomatoes for at least one meal.
So far this year my mom and I have canned 40 quarts of tomato sauce. As we were making sure to pick all the ripe tomatoes we could find, I noticed there were so many green cherry tomatoes. They were utterly beautiful with thick pale green skins a contrast to the veining of a slightly darker green. Clinging to the vine in little groups of clusters, I admired them. What could I do with these beauties I wondered to myself. Eric and I have also been watching back episodes of Chopped and I love how creative the chefs are with the mystery ingredients. Then it popped into my mind. I love fried green tomatoes but the one draw back is the mess they can create in the kitchen. While dipping them in the flour, then egg wash, and finally panko, I manage to have a lot of debris on my kitchen floor. I decided to make a “fried” green tomato casserole.
While it may not be the most imaginative thing to come up with it was really delicious. Eric told me if I had made that on Chopped, I would have surely won! It has all the taste of fried green tomatoes without being fried. It is tart, warm, tasting of sunshine, with a nice crustiness from loads of a wonderful topping. I would venture to say it is a little bit more healthful and is a lot less messy than the fried version. I loved using the green cherry tomatoes. They were extremely easy to layer in the baking dish and held their shape very well in the oven. Topping the tomatoes with a thick layer of panko mixture gave the nice crunch that is so desired. If you love fried green tomatoes, give this simple recipe a try. It makes a wonderful side to a bowl of basmati rice and a simple salad of baby lettuces.
- 2-3 pints green tomatoes
- 1½ cup panko
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup italian parsley chopped
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- good quality olive oil
- Preheat oven to 375º.
- Combine panko, cheese, italian parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Clean and cut cherry tomatoes in halve. Place half of tomato halves in single layer over bottom of 8x11x2 inch baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil.
- Place half of panko mixture evenly over first layer of tomatoes. Drizzle generously with olive oil.
- Layer remaining tomato halves in single layer over panko. Top with remaining panko mixture and drizzle again with olive oil.
- Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes until tomatoes are slightly softened and panko layer is golden brown.