I had a stroke of brilliance a few days ago. Seriously, brilliance. You see, I have, as I'm sure many of you do, a yard full of green tomatoes. Pounds and pounds of them. My cherry tomatoes continue to ripen away as though it were 80 degrees outside, but for the larger tomatoes, well, they are stunted. Anyone who has lived in our climate knows there's no hope for these leftovers. I still have flowers on my tomato vines - the vine thinks it's still warm outside, but the tomatoes, they know better. I have been racking my brain thinking of ways to use all of these greenies. Remember the purple tomatillos from a few weeks ago (weren't they pretty with their little hats)? Well, they were going to go into sweet tomatillo and green tomato gazpacho, but then they froze by accident in the fridge and turned to mush, and anyway, still, I have green tomatoes.
And then it hit me: tempura!!! Of course! The perfect answer to fried green tomatoes! Why don't I ever see that anywhere? Why? I'll tell you why: tempura is not the best medium for fried green tomatoes. What seemed like the aforementioned stroke of brilliance turned out to be okay when fresh and scathingly hot from the wok, but immediately turned into a slightly soggy, sad mess with a molten-hot center. I would never want you, dear readers, to think that I think everything I do is perfectly delicious. Of course, I try to put my better recipes on the website, because what faith would you have in me if nothing every looked good or turned out? My mother cooks these recipes, for the love of crumb cake! I want them to work!
Which is why I will humbly advise you to take my word for it and not try to tempura fry green tomatoes. Would you like me to break it down further? Most people put a nice coating of cornmeal-heavy breading on fried green tomatoes - this ensures a nice barrier in case any of the tomato's insides start to leek through (even though we're using unripe tomatoes here, they are still wet inside). Part of the beauty of tempura batter is its fragile viscosity, which, when prepared correctly, will cling to just about anything, even a dry piece of broccoli. I just isn't suited to the threat of damp. It's delicate, whereas cornmeal is hearty. Therefore, I offer you last year's Fried Green tomato recipe, which is still good, after all this time.
I can attest to the fact that the following items, all purchased this week from the farmer's market, are delicious when tempura fried: onion rings, broccoli, cauliflower, salsify (I totally stole that idea from the menu at the Refectory - must give credit where credit is due), hot chiles, red bell peppers, and, of course, leftover bits of nothing but the batter itself, skimmed from the surface of the oil. To read more in depth about tempura frying, please see my earlier article on Squash Blossom Tempura - the basic method is the same. If you have loved ones who are finicky about getting in their veggies, tempura is a great trick! I served this up with a "tartar" sauce of equal parts Kewpie mayo and my hot sweet pepper relish purcahsed from Wishwell farms (that advice is right on the jar, and it's good advice!); of course, equal parts mayo and whole grain mustard with a dash of Tabasco works well, too, as does a simple good sprinkling of salt. After all of this fried goodness, you will probably need a nice bitter salad, so plan accordingly when you're out shopping.