Last week, I wrote about my undying love of tomatoes.
Seven days and approximately 20 tomatoes later, I’m picking up where I left off.
By now, tomatoes are prolific, and it’s like Christmas. Literally, I see red and green everywhere, and I feel joyful, so it must be Christmas, right?
(If you thought I might tone down the ‘mato-induced effervescence, you’d be wrong.)
So I’ve already given a list of some common tomato varieties, plus my favorite one-dish way to use tomatoes.
Now, I want to talk about heirlooms.
According to the TomatoFest website, heirloom tomatoes can be broken into four basic categories:
- Commercial heirlooms – open-pollinated varieties older than 50 years
- Family heirlooms – grown from seeds “passed down” through generations
- Created heirlooms – when two known “parent” varieties, at least one of which is an heirloom, are crossed
- Mystery heirlooms – Varieties created through natural cross-pollination, but one or more “parents” cannot be identified
Heirlooms have become increasingly popular because of their good flavor, and because they are perceived to grow more naturally, without hybridization. They do, however, have a shorter shelf life, which is why you’ll probably only see them for a few weeks, or in small batches at a time.
That’s also why I can’t really give you a market recommendation. The larger markets that I’ve talked about before, such as Brown’s, will likely have heirlooms. If you’re looking for a specific variety, I’d suggest calling around. If you’re browsing in Central Market and can’t find what you want, ask a produce vendor. Word of mouth will get you tomatoes in mouth!
Last year, heirlooms flourished at my house, including Black Krims, Sungolds, Cherokee Purples, and my two favorites, Brandywines and Green Zebras.
And fortunately, a certain guy I know can fry a mean tomato, too. In fact, he makes the hands-down best fried tomatoes I’ve ever eaten on this planet, and I got him to write out an actual recipe for me.
And I want you to have it. It’s not some family secret, and it’s not like you’re coming over to my house to eat MY perfect fried tomatoes … because if it’s fried-tomato night, I’m not answering the door. Go make your own!
Jon’s fried Green Zebra tomatoes
- As many Green Zebra tomatoes as you can find, sliced to a uniform medium thickness
- Plenty of flour (or a mixture of flour and cornmeal or bread crumbs)
- Butter or olive oil for frying
- 4 egg yolks (save or discard whites)
- 1/2 cup of milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: Dried basil
Add salt, pepper, and, if using, dried basil to your flour mixture to taste. Beat egg yolks with milk until frothy.
Now, this next part is the most important. You want a dry hand and a wet hand; meaning, you want to create a little work station for yourself that allows you to keep one hand dry and completely away from the egg mixture at all times. So, tomatoes and flour on one side and egg mix and frying pan on the other side is a good setup.
First, toss a tomato slice in the flour mix. Transfer it to your egg hand and dip it. Then, without switching hands, toss it again in the flour mix, lift it out, and drop it directly into a hot skillet with a generous amount of already-warmed oil or butter. Put more oil or butter in the pan than you think you’ll need because you don’t want this breading to stick and pull off. Repeat the dry-wet-dry battering process until you fill the skillet with fried tomato deliciousness. Once they get brown and crispy, transfer tomatoes to a plate covered with a few paper towels to absorb excess oil.
To say that I’m salivating right now would be both an understatement and an over-share.
I can eat my weight in these things. I stack them with mozzarella and basil, or on top of wild rice or quinoa. Sometimes we eat them right off the paper towel plate. I make sandwiches out of the leftovers with a little mayo. I can’t get enough.
But I’m a tomatophile, after all.