Fried Green Heirloom Tomatoes with Saffron Aioli ~ traditional Southern fried green tomatoes are made with tart, unripe green tomatoes, but I’m using beautiful green heirloom tomatoes instead.
Fried tomatoes aren’t the most photogenic food in the world, I admit, but boy are they tasty. And it’s good to know how to fix them for yourself, because you sure won’t find them on many menus outside of the true South.
Normally you’d use unripe green tomatoes for this dish, but I’ve changed it up just a bit to use naturally green (and ripe) heirloom tomatoes. It makes the dish a little sweeter and a little juicer. Not a bad thing in my book.
You’ll need a nice sharp knife to slice your tomatoes evenly. I like to start with large, round tomatoes for the best slices. The variety I’m using is Green Zebra. As heirloom tomatoes go, it’s on the firmer side, with a zesty flavor ~ perfect for this dish.
Tip: be sure to get the oil nice and hot before you put the tomatoes into the pan, that way the crust will cook up to a nice crisp golden color quickly, and the tomatoes will stay firm. You should hear a nice strong sizzle when you drop the first one in.
Don’t crowd the pan, either, give your tomatoes enough space or they’ll stem instead of fry.
A side dipping sauce is essential to great fried green tomatoes, and my Saffron Aioli adds a colorful touch. My Lemonnaise would be great with these, too, or even a buttermilk dressing to serve as a dipping sauce.
Eat these fried green heirloom tomatoes alongside eggs, bacon and grits for breakfast, or just on their own as an appetizer or lunch.
- 2 or 3 large, firm, green heirloom tomatoes
- 1/2 cup corn meal
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 cup buttermilk
- olive oil for frying
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise (homemade is best!)
- a good pinch of saffron threads, crushed
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- zest of 1 lemon
- Slice the tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick.
- Whisk the cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper, cayenne and paprika together in a pie tin or dish.
- Put the buttermilk in another pie tin or dish.
- Heat about a 1/4 inch of olive oil in a cast iron skillet.
- Dip the tomato slices in the buttermilk, then dredge them in the flour mixutre, coating all surfaces. Drop into the hot oil and fry until golden on both sides. Flip them carefully.
- Serve immediately with Saffron Aioli.
- To make the aioli, crush the saffron threads between your fingers and mix them into the mayo, along with the lemon juice and zest. Season with a little salt and then let it sit for about an hour. This allows the saffron to dissolve into the mayonnaise and release its color and flavor into the sauce. Mix again, and serve or store in the refrigerator.