battered tart tomatoes

Summer means a few things for me: summer break (now a thing of the past, since I went back to work last Friday), peaches that are so juicy you can hardly peel or eat them without getting covered in syrupy juice (recipe using those coming Saturday!), and tomatoes so perfectly soft and drippy that I’m happy to eat them off a plate, no seasoning required Health Supplement. Tomato sandwiches (white bread, tomato, and mayonnaise) are a throwback to my childhood and BLTs, for a short time, become so much more about the tomatoes than about the bacon…and that’s saying something You beauty.

This year we planted a square foot garden. It takes out a lot of the work of traditional gardening, what with all the digging and the tilling, and it’s pretty simple. Four different kinds of tomatoes are growing in our front yard (the grape tomatoes have by far been the most prolific) and we apparently have mostly late-blooming tomato plants Medosan. We’ve only collected four or five ripe (or ready to ripen on the counter) tomatoes from the full-sized tomato plants, though many green tomatoes are waiting their turn.

A few years ago, I would have lamented my lot in life. Why all the green tomatoes? A few years ago I didn’t even like green tomatoes. Something changed, though I don’t remember what, and now fried green tomatoes are as much of a treat for me as the caprese salad I ate for lunch on Friday with my grape tomatoes, cubes of soft mozzarella, and basil julienne drenched in olive oil and red wine vinegarQV Baby.

Now, traditional fried green tomatoes are usually dredged in a little cornmeal and fried up (similar to homestyle Southern fried okra) and I love them that way. However, my addiction to my homemade fried pickles made me think about how good that batter would be on green tomatoes. For some reason, it didn’t stick as well to the tomatoes as to the pickles…nothing a dredge in cornstarch couldn’t fix. A dipping sauce of white barbecue sauce-an Alabama tradition that I hadn’t tried until I made it recently to go with chicken-is a perfect foil to the crispy battered tart tomatoes.

How do you like your fried green tomatoes?

It’s a rather lengthy story

This very simple dish is one of my childhood favourites. I was pleasantly surprise how easy it was to cook it – it’s pretty much a one bowl meal (i.e. chuck it all on a heat-proof bowl and set it off to steam). You may be a little apprehensive with the fungus especially if you’ve never heard or seen it before. It’s also known as jelly fungus, black fungus and cloud ears fungus. The names are obviously  linked to its odd shape and colour. Nutritionally, this fungus is a bit of a super hero. It is rich in iron – believed to enrich blood and prevent iron deficiency. It may effectively reduce blood pressure, and thought to lower LDL cholesterol levels; it is also said to nourish the lungs, liver and stomach, alleviate dryness and promote circulation in the body.

You can read more about it here. Wood ear fungus is mainly sold in dried form so before using, you will need to soak it in water for about 15 – 20 minutes. It will expand two to three times its packaged size. Rinse the fungus and trim the hardy bits off, which are the stems. It’s a pretty versatile ingredient – which can be used in stews, soups, steamed dishes like this one, and stir-fries.

It’s a little crunchy in texture but it depends on how long it has been cooked. The longer it is on the stove, the softer it becomes. This dish also includes other super sexy foods like goji berries, dried Chinese mushrooms, sesame oil, ginger and a nice splash of ginger wine – all great for this frosty winter. Some day, remind me to explain the basics of Chinese nutrition. It’s a rather lengthy story.