Green tomatoes – green referring not just to their color but also to the fact that they are not ripe – are a gardener’s latent bonus.

We’re talking here about the hard, unpromising-looking fruits that droop on the vines in early autumn, refusing to ever turn a proper ripe red color, because it’s no longer warm enough for them.

Don’t confuse these with tomatillos, which are also green, but an altogether different fruit often used in Mexican salsas. To confuse the matter further, many farmers markets now also sell the ripe but green-in-color varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

Green (unripe) tomatoes may be puckery-tart, with an almost lemony flavor, but that only adds to their versatility.

They’re wonderful when thinly sliced and added raw to meat sandwiches; they make great pickles and chutneys, and are delectable when dredged in seasoned flour and fried – a dish that seems to have originated in the American South but has now crisscrossed the country.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Sriracha Mayonnaise

These make a nice lunch or vegetable side dish but I love them best as hors d’oeuvres, served with this spicy, smoky, sweet dipping sauce. If you are offering them as an appetizer, you can use smaller tomatoes or cut larger ones into halves or quarters.

Serves 4 to 6

FRIED TOMATOES:

1-1½ pounds green tomatoes

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons cornmeal

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup whole or low-fat milk

Vegetable oil or bacon fat for frying

Sea salt for sprinkling

SRIRACHA MAYONNAISE:

¼ cup mayonnaise

1½ teaspoons Sriracha sauce

¼ teaspoon smoked paprika

Cut the tomatoes into ½-inch slices. In a shallow dish, stir together the flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper. Pour the milk into another dish or small bowl.

Cover a large skillet with oil to the depth of 1/8 inch and heat over medium-high heat. (You will probably need to fry in two batches.)

First, dip the tomato slices in the milk, then in the flour mixture, pressing in so that the coating adheres.

Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer in the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the first side is a nice deep golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn and cook until they are brown on the second side, 3 to 5 more minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Repeat with more oil and the remaining tomatoes. (These may be fried as much as 1 hour ahead.)

Meanwhile, whisk the mayonnaise with the Sriracha and paprika and transfer to a small serving bowl.

Serve the tomatoes warm or at room temperature, with a sprinkle of sea salt.

For large tomatoes, serve on plates with a dollop of the sauce on the side

For small tomatoes, serve on a platter with the sauce for dipping.

QUICK GREEN TOMATO CHUTNEY

This simple and utterly delicious chutney is fantastic on meat – especially pork – sandwiches.

Makes about 2 cups

2 pounds green tomatoes, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 cup sugar

1 cup white vinegar

1½ teaspoons coriander seeds or 1 teaspoon ground coriander

1½ teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine all ingredients except the lemon juice in a large saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook uncovered, stirring frequently, until thickened, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Stir in the lemon juice.

Cool to room temperature, then transfer to glass jars or plastic containers and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or for up to 3 weeks.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Lobster!” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula.


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