Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What the hell do I do with all of these green tomatoes?

My mother's garden, in which I am, these days, a frequent shopper, is currently overrun by green tomatoes. As an aside, I realize that tomatoes are a food that you either love or hate (if you don't like the tomato, sorry about your luck regarding the next few posts; come back later this week). In the past, I thought that about the only thing you could do with a green tomato was fry it up in oil and butter, after slathering it in a batter that rendered it nearly unrecognizable. This week, however, I realized that the green tomato is seeded with possibility, mainly because my eldest daughter suggested, after I made the obligatory fried green tomatoes mentioned above, that they would make a really great sauce for spaghetti.

I decided to try to construct a basic sauce, drawing on the tartness that is characteristic of the unripened orb. When I finally tasted the outcome, I pulled an Emeril (exclaiming, like my Dad in the early 90s, "That'll walk the dog!"), excited as I was about the deliciousness of what emerged from the food processor.  The green tomato, in this case roasted and showcased, does what the tomatillo does for salsa. It transforms the familiar into an altogether new experience. I'm calling this one "Monster Spaghetti Sauce, the Second" ("Monster Spaghetti Sauce, the First," in our house, is plain old pasta with pesto, renamed "Monster Spaghetti" so I could get Maggie to try noodles with "green stuff" on them).

Monster Spaghetti Sauce, the Second

1. Oil baking sheet with 1 tbsp. of olive oil. Slice 2 medium green tomatoes into roughly 1/4" thick slices and spread over sheet, sprinkling each side with salt and pepper. Also, slice the top off of one head of garlic, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and place in the middle of the baking sheet. Roast in a 350 degree oven until tomatoes look slightly "tight," i.e. the tomato looks like it is pulling in on itself, and the garlic is slightly browned (the roasting brings out the sweetness in the tomato, which is key for the flavor of this sauce).

2. In the meantime, place the following ingredients in the bowl of a food processor: one large handful of fresh basil, the zest and juice of one lemon, a healthy drizzle of honey, and freshly cracked sea salt and black pepper. Once the tomatoes come out of the oven, allow them to cool slightly and then add the tomatoes and the roasted garlic (removed from the husk).

3. Process the ingredients until you are left with a green sauce that looks like a slightly thinner cousin of tomatillo salsa.

While I've been calling this Monster Spaghetti sauce (and it's pretty damned good on spaghetti), I also used it to make a killer Bacon and green tomato pizza (spreading the sauce over a store-bought crust, topping with mozzarella cheese and diced turkey bacon, fried to a crisp, and baking according to the directions on the crust packaging).

I think the possibilities are fairly endless. Green tomato bruschetta, green tomato salsa (with lime chips), green tomato chimichurri. I think it's safe to say my family is going to be sick of the green tomato when I'm through (it's going to be the "Blurred Lines" of my kitchen).

Tomorrow, I'll be bringing you a riff on the classic Fried Green Tomato recipe (using some of this leftover sauce in the "batter" for a newer version of this classic). It walks the dog too.

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