Summer is the season when I feel the most Southern. Delicacies that I can find only at farm stands and farmers’ markets a few months out of the year–juicy peaches, ripe tomatoes, tender summer squash, sweet watermelon, and fresh lima beans and field peas–bring back memories of the “vegetable meals” my mother made when I was growing up in Louisiana. Though bits of meat may have been used sparingly as seasoning, the real stars of the summertime table were the bowls of steaming green beans, creamy casseroles of squash and corn, fresh butterbeans in pools of savory “pot likker,” wedges of hearty cornbread, and crunchy slices of fried green tomatoes.
Fried green tomatoes is one of those traditional Southern dishes that everyone in the South makes a different way. It’s understandable that with states as different as Virginia and Texas forced under the same umbrella of “Southern,” there will be regional differences in recipes, but beyond regional differences, there are family traditions. One family in Starkville, Mississippi, may coat their green tomatoes in seasoned flour, while right down the road in Columbus another family prefers their tomatoes dredged in cornmeal. The variations are endless, but the three constants are green tomatoes, salt, and pepper. And frying, can’t forget the frying, which, rebel that I am, I just have to do.
My mother didn’t prepare fried green tomatoes very often, but when she did make them, she used cornmeal and got it to stick to the tomatoes by dipping them in an egg mixture first. So that’s what I do, except in my case a mixture of ground flax seeds and water takes the place of the egg and my oven takes the place of a greasy skillet.
The wonderful thing about preparing oven-fried green tomatoes–besides reducing the fat–is that you can prepare several other oven-cooked vegetables at the same time. I roasted okra and yellow squash next to my green tomatoes while a pot of fresh pinto beans spiked with home-grown jalapenos bubbled on the stove and a rice cooker full of basmati brown rice scented the air with its nutty aroma. Mmmm, say what you will about heat and humidity, life in the South is good.
Oven-Fried Green Tomatoes
These "fried" green tomatoes are gluten-free as well as oil-free.
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground flax seed
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1/4 cup quinoa flour or other flour
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch or other starch
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 large green tomatoes
Preheat oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
- Combine the water and ground flax seeds in a blender and blend at high speed for 30 seconds. Pour into a wide, shallow bowl and allow to sit for a few minutes to thicken slightly.
- In another wide bowl or plate, combine remaining ingredients (except tomatoes). Cut tomatoes into slices about 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick. Submerge a tomato slice in the flax-water, allow excess to drip off, and place slice into cornmeal mixture. Press lightly to make sure that bottom of slice is covered with cornmeal and turn to coat other side. Place on prepared baking sheet.
- When all tomato slices are coated, bake for 15 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown. Turn and bake another 15 minutes to brown other side. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
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