This is basically a recipe for fried green tomatoes. Fried green tomatoes are awesome, but if you live in a city like us, you might have a hard time getting your hands on green (meaning unripe) tomatoes, which come early or very late in the summer, before the crop is fully ready, or after it is done and unlikely to ripen due to cooling weather.
Since unripe tomatoes don't usually it make it to market in the city, we substituted firm underripe heirloom tomatoes we found in the market early June, from the first crop of the year. Any variety will do, just make sure that they are pretty firm in your hand, that means they won't fall apart when you fry them. A little ripe is okay, but a totally ripe tomato will be too watery to be fried.
This recipe is vegan, so we substituted "egg replacer" for the eggs usually used in breading and aioli. Feel free to come up with your own egg substitute if you can find one, we just felt this one wasn't too watery and its neutral flavor wouldn't interfere much with the taste, or our frying.
Have your condiments made and ready before you even start your tomatoes. That way you have something to dip them in while they are still hot. Good matches for fried tomatoes include aioli (garlic mayonnaise), vegan aioli, or fruit chutney.
- 4 or more large greenish, unripe tomatoes - heirloom varieties are best (figure at least 1 large tomato = 3 or 4 slices = 1 person )
- 1 to 2 cups egg replacer (this is a readymade white powder made from potato flour, tapioca flower, and calcium carbonate, which acts as both a binder and leavener. You can find egg replacer in bulk at Rainbow Grocery)
- 3 cups of plain flour (AP is fine)
- water (to mix into egg replacer)
- 4 to 8 cups breadcrumbs, depending on how many tomatoes you plan to fry (we made our own from drying out cubes of pain de mie bread from Acme, and grinding them in a food processor - you can use natural readymade breadcrumbs if you like, just read the ingredients first and make sure there's nothing nasty in them)
- 2 quarts of frying oil (canola, safflower, peanut, or grapeseed oil)
- sea salt (for sprinkling on at the end)
- Frying pot (tall sided pot that holds at least a gallon of liquid)
- slotted spoon or wire spider (for frying)
- frying thermometer (highly recommended, so you know what temperature the oil is)
- 3 large bowls
- 3 trays or large plates for sliced tomatoes
- paper towels or clean paper grocery bags (for setting fried food on)
1. Wash and slice your tomatoes with a bread knife (the serrated edge cuts tomatoes nicely) into slices about half an inch thick. You want it to hold up during frying. Set aside.
2 Put your frying oil into a pot that can hold about a gallon of liquid. You want the sides of the pot to be tall so the oil doesn't splatter on you during frying. Put your frying thermometer in the pot and let the oil heat over medium heat while you do your breading. Keep an eye on the temperature, you want the oil temperature to hover at 350 degrees.
3. Set up your breading station. A breading station has 5 steps, so use a large table or long counter, and line the items up in this order:
(a) a tray of your sliced tomatoes
(b) a bowl of flour
(c) a bowl of egg replacer mixed with water to the consistency of raw egg
(d) a bowl of breadcrumbs (hold half your crumbs back so they don't all get sticky at once)
(e) a platter or tray for your finished, breaded tomatoes
4. Breading several slices of tomato at once, drop 4-6 slices of tomato in the flour, toss and shake off excess flour off the sliced tomatoes. The flour is just there to soak up the extra moisture from your tomato so the crumbs stay dry.
5. Drop the floured tomato slices briefly in the egg replacer and shake off the excess or wipe it off with your fingers. You only want a thin coat.
6. Drop the eggy tomatoes in the bread crumbs. Toss the tomatoes in the crumbs til they are coated on all sides with crumbs. Remove gently and set on your empty, dry tray in a single layer. Do not stack them. Try to fry them within 20-30 minutes of breading, so your bread crumbs don't get soggy.
7. When you have breaded all your slices of tomatoes, you are ready to fry. Bring up your oil to 350 degrees on the frying thermometer (optimal frying temperature), and drop 3-5 slices of breaded tomato into the hot oil at a time.
8. Turn the slices with your slotted spoon, so the tomatoes fry evenly on all sides.
9. When they are golden brown, lift them out gently with your slotted spoon onto a tray or plate lined with paper towels or clean paper bags, to absorb excess oil. Do not stack, so they don't drip oil on eachother.
10. sure your oil comes back up to 350 degrees before you drop in more tomatoes. Repeat frying until all tomatoes are done.
11. Eat while hot, with aioli or fruit chutney.
If you need to hold the fried tomatoes for an hour or two, you can keep them in a 250 degree oven until service. PS: Don't pour your frying oil down the kitchen sink. Let it cool and bury it in your backyard, or donate it to your local biodiesel fueling station.
1 block soft tofu
1 cup olive or canola oil
2 Tablespoons dijon mustard
1 spoonful of vegan margarine or shortening (to help build an emulsion)
2 cloves of garlic, pounded in a mortar or chopped extremely fine
salt and lemon juice to taste
In a food processor, whip the shortening or margarine and dijon mustard. Blend until smooth. Add tofu and garlic and blend until smooth. Slowly drizzle your oil into the moving food processor; the whipping should help build an emulsion. It won't be as thick as mayonnaise, but it should be white and hold together. Add lemon and salt to taste, and continue to blend til it looks emulsified (opaque, not separated). Keep cold and refrigerated until use.
HOW WE SERVED OUR FRIED TOMATOES AT QUEER FOOD FOR LOVE:
At Queer Food For Love, we sprinkled our hot fried tomatoes with lavender sea salt, squeezed a dollop of cold vegan aioli on each tomato, sprinkled them with marjoram buds, fennel fronds, and onion flowers, and garnished them with edible flower petals. You can eat them any way you like, just make sure you salt them lightly when they come out of the oil and eat them while they are still hot. The hot tomatoes will set off the raw garlic in the aioli, making them taste extra delicious.