It is green tomato time! Tuesday night brings the first killing frost of the season, ending what turned out to be a very short growing season for hot weather vegetables. Pam and Leon are in the field harvesting ripe tomatoes before the cold snap, which also means there are plenty of green tomatoes just waiting to be fried. Green tomatoes will continue to ripen off the vine but never achieve the sweetness of a vine ripened tomato. Partially ripened green tomatoes are great for a chutney, while unripe ones are best for frying. Store green tomatoes at room temperature in a cool, dry place.
The other green tomato in your share is a tomatillo, a distinctive and indigenous ingredient in Mexican cuisine. The fruit goes by many names, including tomato verde and husk tomato since it remains green while ripe and it grows inside a papery calyx or husk. Mexican green tomatoes grow in the wild but most cultivated varieties you find in the store are green, yellow, or purple and remain in their husk. The fruit itself is thin-skinned with a mild acid and lots of seeds. If you plan to use them quickly, tomatillos can be stored at room temperature in a cool place. For longer storage, keep inside a paper bag or perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. Tomatillos are typically cooked and supply the base ingredient for sauces and pork verde. However you prepare them, the husk needs to be removed and the tomatillo rinsed of the slightly tacky substance around the base. If adding to a stew (i.e. chile or pork verde), tomatillos can be chopped and added raw. If making verde or other salsa, tomatillos need to be cooked first; roasting or boiling are two typical methods.
Your share also includes jalapeno and cayenne chilies. Cayenne peppers are slender, long, and bright red, while jalapenos tend to be plumper and more cylindrical, and range from green to red. Cayenne peppers are thought to have originated in South American while jalapenos are named after Jalapa, the capital of the state of Veracruz. Both chilies can be used fresh or dried. Fresh chiles need to be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. If you plan on drying chiles, use a sewing needle and heavy thread to string peppers through the base of the stem. Hang in a cool, dry place until dried throughout. Both cayenne and jalapenos can vary in spice level due to many growing variables. Removing any seeds and veins helps reduce the level of spice but always make sure to wash your hands after cutting raw chiles and taste a tiny bit raw to check the heat level.
Salsa Verde (makes about 2 cups)
Courtesy of Diana Kennedy, From My Mexican Kitchen, this sauce is a great table salsa and goes well with tacos, grilled meats, burritos, and grilled vegetables. It will last for a few days in the refrigerator.
1 pound tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
3 or more jalapeno chiles, finely chopped
½ cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons white onion, roughly chopped
Salt to taste
Put the tomatillos whole in a small saucepan, barely cover with water, and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and continue cooking until soft but not falling apart, about 5 minutes, depending on the size. Drain over a bowl to reserve the cooking water!
Using a blender or food processor, put 1/3 cup of the cooking liquid in the processor bowl. Add the chiles, cilantro, garlic, onion and grind to a paste. Add the tomatillos a little at a time, blending with about 1/3 cup more of the cooking liquid until you have a textured sauce of medium consistency. Add salt to taste.
Fried Green Tomatoes (serves 4)
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Deborah Madison
Fried tomatoes make a nice side dish or go well with a salad course but I think they shine on BLTs. Fried green tomatoes, cooked bacon, lettuce, lightly toasted sandwich bread and a pecan-bourbon mayonnaise make for an amazing BLT.
4 medium green tomatoes
¾ cup fine cornmeal
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil or clarified butter
Salt and freshly milled pepper
Slice the tomatoes crosswise, 1/3 to ½ inch thick. Press each piece into a plate to coat both sides. Heat the oil in a wide skillet over high heat until hot enough to sizzle a drop of water. Add the tomatoes, reduce heat to medium, and fry on both sides until golden. Remove to a paper towel lined plate, season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.