Fried Green Tomato Caprese Stacks
Fried what? If you haven’t lived in the south a fried green tomato may sound like crazy talk. But trust me when I say they are strangely appealing and even down right delicious. They are more acidic than regular tomatoes, even a little sour which is why it pairs so nicely in this dish with fresh, sweeter tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.
So what is a fried green tomato? It’s actually traditionally a tomato that didn’t ripen at the end of the growing season and, instead of wasting it, some ingenious person decided to batter and fry it. Because what doesn’t taste good fried, right?
They are usually served with buttermilk dressing or hot sauce and as side dish to something else that’s probably deep fried. But instead I wanted to do my own little twist on it and use a green heirloom tomato instead of a standard one and serve them as part of a more traditional tomato salad dish – a Caprese. That way you have a little mix of fresh and crunchy fried and creaminess from the fresh mozzarella. In other words – heaven. The heirloom tomato has more flavor to it and less bite but you can use either.
Now there are green heirloom tomatoes that are green even when fully ripe. A green zebra is one. So the trick is to find a tomato that still is firm and not fully ripe. Have you ever tried to fry a ripe tomato? Me either. But I can imagine it’s a mess because the flesh (especially an heirloom) turns super tender and there just isn’t enough structure and fiber there to hold up to a batter and some hot oil.
I found a four pack of heirloom tomatoes at my local Trader Joe’s and it was a lucky find because there were two ripe tomatoes (one yellow and one red) and then two firm, green tomatoes. Score! But this time of year you can find them loose in many grocery stores or at your local farmer’s market.
For presentation I did some extras that you can opt to do or just leave it simple. Either way. First addition were a few mini heirloom tomatoes around the plate. I like the offset between large and small and – let’s face it – it looked cute. Then on top of the tomato Caprese stack I added a small handful of microgreens. Also for contrast and height more than anything. You can find all kinds of microgreens these days – arugula, broccoli, radish, mixed. I think arugula works best or a mix. Finally there is the drizzle of balsamic reduction or glaze which I didn’t include here how to make but you can find it on another recipe on my blog: http://www.therusticfork.com/caprese-cups-with-blackened-shrimp/ or use store bought.
For effect I layered my final dish on each plate starting with a fresh slice of tomato, then mozzarella, then the fried green tomato, then mozzarella, and then a fresh tomato. Basil leaves in between would be nice too. On top I added fresh chopped basil and around the plate. And then the microgreens. It’s kind of like the 80’s hairstyle – bigger is better. Then drizzled with the balsamic reduction and a little olive oil. So good y’all. Eat up.
*Tip: Don’t forget to season those fried tomatoes with a good shake of salt when they are still hot out of the pan
Ingredients – Fried Green Tomato Caprese Stacks
Step by Step
Make the dredging station
To fry anything you want to create a three-step dredging station. That basically means egg and some kind of liquid, flour, and then a breadcrumb topping of some kind. Fried green tomatoes are sometimes done just in egg and flour or in egg and milk and then in cornmeal. For me, I like the combination of the outer coating to be a little bit of flour, fine breadcrumbs and cornmeal. Cornmeal alone can be a bit tough and breadcrumbs alone are fine but the mix here is more interesting. If you don’t have cornmeal and breadcrumbs just use one or the other.
Also buttermilk instead of regular milk has a tanginess to it and is a tenderizer. Remember the tomato is green and a little tough so this milk works well but if you don’t have it then whole milk is fine too. Options are good.
Start with the egg was mixture which, of course, has an egg in it.
Add the buttermilk.
Set aside and make the flour mixture. Use 1/4 cup of the flour and add in the oregano and basil. Both are dried herbs. And then about 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Finally make that crunchy outside coating which starts with cornmeal.
Add the second 1/4 cup of the all purpose flour. *Note I made my own with gluten free flour and breadcrumbs and it turned out great.
Then the find breadcrumbs.
Mix around to combine and set aside.
Dredge the tomatoes
Cut the tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices and drain on paper towels if juicy. How pretty are these? Red and yellow on the inside. My 2 tomatoes were medium size and I got 4 good, thick slices out of them in total. The tops and ends were discarded.
Get that dredging station set up. You go in order of the seasoned herbed flour into the egg/buttermilk mixture and then the breadcrumb/cornmeal coating.
Step 1: The flour. Coat well and then shake off any excess.
Step 2: Into the egg mixture
Step 3: Coat both sides well with the breadcrumb mixture.
Repeat and set aside on a platter as you heat your oil and pan.
Fry Green Tomatoes
I love a good cast iron skillet for frying and these are no exception. Heat the oil over medium heat until nice and hot. Nothing good ever fried in lukewarm oil.
Fry until golden brown on each side. You’ll start to see the edges of the batter crisp up on the first side and that’s how you know when to flip.
Remove to paper towels and remember to season generously with salt (and pepper if you want).
Assemble Tomato stacks
Now tomatoes come in all sizes but the key to an even looking stack is to try and cut all the tomatoes (and the mozzarella) into the same general thickness and circumference. Mine weren’t perfect but I made it work. If you need to do two of one type of tomato on a layer because they were smaller then that’s fine.
Layer your Caprese salad onto each individual plate. Start with one slice of tomato, top with fresh mozzarella, then fried green tomato, another layer of mozzarella, and top with a final slice of tomato. Then go for the garnishes -chopped basil and microgreens, more fresh basil around the plate, baby heirloom tomatoes, a good drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil and a little salt on top. I always serve with more balsamic vinegar reduction on the side because once you dig in you usually want a little more.
- 2 medium green tomatoes
- 1 red heirloom tomato
- 1 yellow heirloom tomato
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup buttermilk or whole milk
- 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour (divided)
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 4 oz fresh mozzarella (usually 1-2 large pieces per ctr)
- 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil plus 2 Tablespoons
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Fresh basil - approx 1/2 cup loose (garnish)
- microgreens (optional garnish)
- Balsamic glaze or reduction
- Olive oil (drizzle)
- Mini heirloom tomatoes (optional garnish)
- Line a sheet pan with parchment.
- Cut stem from peppers and remove seeds. Cut peppers in half lengthwise and lay on the sheet pan, skin side up.
- Take the skin and ends off the onion and chop into big pieces. Peel the skins off the garlic and place both garlic and onions on sheet pan with peppers.
- Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and broil until the skin on the peppers is blistered or blackened. You may need to rotate the pan under the broil to achieve this.
- Remove peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Wait 10 minutes and remove the skin from the flesh of the peppers.
- Core the tomatoes and cut into large pieces. In a large pot heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and then add the chopped tomatoes and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and a little pepper. Cook over medium heat until the tomatoes start to break down.
- Add the peppers and onions and garlic into the tomatoes and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Remove the mixture to a blender. Add 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter and basil. Blend to combine and then turn speed up to puree.
- Pour sauce into glass jars or freezer containers if storing. Use with your favorite recipe.