We’re going to talk about recipes with ingredients that are still probably ready to pick in your yard right now. But if your Spring veggie plants are already gone, I totally understand. I live in West Central Florida, where right now, when it’s not raining, we’ve been having Heat Index days topping 108, 109, 110 degrees Fahrenheit. This is instant sweating, flip-flop melting, HOT weather.
Because of the heat my Spring garden is pretty much on its last legs – the tomato “understory” (lower leaves) is dying out while the tips of the plants are still healthy looking and flowering/fruiting. When I do get some tomatoes they are usually split from the rain deluges before I get a chance to let them grow to full size or ripen. But, my hot pepper plants seem to be doing just fine.
When life gives you green tomatoes, of course being a Southern girl, there’s only one thing to do: you fry them. It’s one of my favs so I’ll share it with you! We’ll also do some yummy things with jalapenos which you might not have thought of doing. Finally, to help cool you off after all that heat, we’ll use some Mint that’s going crazy trying to find its way out of the container it’s planted in right now to make some Mint Lemonade.
Fried Green Tomatoes
Yes, Fried Green Tomatoes is the title of a wonderful and famous movie. But it’s also a great way to use up tomatoes that may not make it to ripening (usually because they have split at the top). The rest of the tomato is fine when they split, they’re just not pretty, and they tend to eventually dry up or get mold growing on them if they didn’t heal their split before picking.
Sometimes, though, you just want to take a regular healthy green tomato and make this dish. And that’s OK too. Let’s get to it!
- Green tomatoes, sliced in 1/3-1/2 inch crosswise slices (depending on how big your tomatoes are) – see example photo
- Eggs, whisked – number of eggs will vary depending on how many tomatoes you are preparing
- Corn meal – finely ground – if you don’t have this, I’ve also had good luck with bread crumbs or crushed plain cornflakes (not the sugary kind).
- Paprika – season to taste
- Salt – season to taste
- Pepper – season to taste
- Vegetable Oil
Slice your tomatoes as described above, and place on a plate. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, and set aside.
Whisk one egg in a shallow bowl. Place an additional shallow bowl in an “assembly line” on the counter. You will place the corn meal & paprika in the second bowl, and mix these dry ingredients together well.
Take a heavy skillet, cast iron if you have it, and fill to 1/2″ full with vegetable oil. Set it over medium-high heat. Allow the oil to heat up to just before smoking point (the surface will usually shimmer slightly just before starting to burn). If you don’t know if it’s ready, take a pinch of corn meal and toss into the oil – it should readily sizzle and start to brown right away.
When the oil is warmed up, dip your tomatoes one at a time in egg, and then coat in the corn meal mixture, making sure the tomato is well coated. Place the coated tomatoes carefully into the oil, making sure they don’t touch, stack, or overlap (and be careful not to splash yourself!). Allow them to cook in the oil until they are nicely browned, about 2 minutes per side if the oil is hot enough.
As you move through the sliced green tomatoes, refill the egg and corn meal mixture in your shallow bowls as needed through this process.
Transfer the golden-brown tomato slices to a paper-towel lined platter. The aluminum “disposable” baking tins lined with paper towels are really handy for this too if you’re cooking a lot of them, as the tall sides keep your stacks of tomatoes and paper towels from falling over.
Repeat this process until you finish all of your tomato frying. Serve warm or room temperature (I even like them cold…).
Suggestions for serving:
- Make a toasted Bacon, Lettuce, & Fried Green Tomato Sandwich (otherwise known to me as a BLFGT) with mayo, or for a little spice you can use the Roasted Jalapeno Sauce I make (recipe below).
- Use a Fried Green Tomato as the base for a stackable snack, such as a layered FGT, goat cheese, and prosciutto appetizer!
- Ever had a Grilled FGT & Cheese sandwich? Works as a panini too!
- Start with a FGT, add a thin layer of marinara, some diced pepperoni or crumbled italian sausage, top with some shredded mozzarella. Toast them in a toaster oven for 2 minutes, and make a FGT pizza bite!
- FGT Cheeseburger. You’re welcome.
The possibilities are endless!
Some people just can’t get enough heat in their food. If you want to make your own hot stuff and use up the jalapenos that are going bananas on your pepper plants right now, it’s actually pretty easy to roast them! Then you can put them on your burgers, your sandwiches, your hotdogs, or even make a spicy aioli/sauce with them.
I like to use a grill for this purpose, but you could do the oven. The instructions below are for the grill, but an oven at 400 degrees would give you a similar result I think.
- Green and/or red jalapenos
- Olive Oil
- salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste (or a pre-mixed seasoning like a Steak or Chicken seasoning if that’s all you have – if you’ve got some Latin ingredients, Completa or Adobo with Pepper works well too).
- Heavy duty Aluminum foil sheets, 2 of the same approximate size
Take your fresh-picked jalapenos and cut off the stem, then cut them in half longways (stem to point). Open them up into two halves. Remove the seeds (dry and save them for next growing season if you like!).
Take one sheet of aluminum foil and lay it out flat, then fold up the edges about 1″ around. Arrange your halved jalapenos on your aluminum sheet inside the folded edges, the insides of the jalapenos facing you (skin facing the aluminum). Drizzle (or brush, if you prefer, but I like extra oil) these jalapeno “boats” with olive oil and then sprinkle your salt, pepper, garlic or other spice mixtures over all of them. You don’t need a lot, but you don’t want to be skimpy either.
The second sheet of aluminum covers the jalapenos and the turned-up edges of the foil are crimped into the top piece of foil, making a foil pouch. No openings are necessary for venting, but you can leave a small one if you like (I find the steam buildup helps the roasting process).
On your hot grill, place your foil packet on direct medium heat for 15 minutes and then lower the heat to low or move to indirect heat for another 15 minutes. Check your work after you move it off of the direct heat to see where you’re at roasting-wise. When done, your Jalapenos should look “flat” and a bit “soft” with a nice brown roast mark on the skin, but not be burnt or completely destroyed. You should still be able to take a fork or pair of tongs and lift them up in one piece. Remove from heat when they get to this point.
And that’s really it! Depending on your grill type you might need to experiment with time on the heat for the cooking part.
This is a good dish to make alongside other things you’re grilling, like burgers, hot dogs, corn, or whatever you’re making for your summer BBQs.
- Put one or two on a burger for a great spicy kick!
- Dice a roasted pepper and mix into sweet relish for a kickin’ hot dog!
- Take a few peppers and make a spicy condiment for great pepper flavor in a creamy sauce (the next section below).
- Add roasted jalapenos to homemade hummus for an unexpected twist! Also great to add a few roasted red sweet bell peppers for added sweetness.
Roasted Jalapeno Aioli/Sauce
I struggle with what to call this mixture, but I love it because it can be adapted to different uses. It has spice, and then the cooling effect of the dairy, so you can taste the pepper flavor without burning your face off. It seems the hotter the weather gets, the hotter my jalapenos get!
- 4-6 Roasted Jalapeno Peppers, prepared as above
- 1 cup Sour Cream, brand and fat content of your choice
- 1/2 cup Mayonnaise, Hellmans or Dukes or the like, NOT Miracle Whip (I love MW but it has the wrong flavor for this)
- Optional: 1 tsp Cumin, cilantro leaves, lime juice
Use 4-6 roasted jalapenos per 1 cup Sour Cream, depending on how spicy you want it. Add the jalapenos, the sour cream, the mayonnaise, and any optional ingredients, into a food processor. Puree these items together, ensuring they are blended well and not chunky.
Use liberally on burger buns, dollop onto tacos in place of sour cream, spread on a Bacon, Lettuce & Fried Green Tomato sandwich – or wherever you think a little spice would taste delicious!
I use the Cumin when I’m making a sauce for tacos, it adds some great flavor! You could also add cilantro leaves and/or lime juice for even more flavor. You have permission to play with your food!!!
You should be able to store this sauce in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, and I haven’t found that it freezes well, but you could try.
So Fresh So Clean Mint Lemonade
When you think you’ve had all the hot and spicy you can stand, nothing cools you down like Mint Lemonade. I call Mint “the wonder herb” because not only is it an aggressive grower in the garden, but it helps with digestion, headaches, and it takes the sting out of spices. Mint oil also has a cooling sensation, so when added to drinks it’s like eating a really flavorful ice cube. And we all need something cooling when it gets this hot. Get ready to get refreshed!
P.S. Those familiar with Middle Eastern culture might see a resemblance to Limonana here! Yum!
- 6 fresh Lemons, 5 halved, one for garnish – you can use regular or Meyer lemons
- Mint sprigs with leaves, about 1/2 cup of leaves with extra “pretty” sprigs set aside for garnish
- 2 cups granulated Sugar
- 6 cups water
- A large pitcher
- A muddler (or wood spoon)
- A strainer
- A citrus reamer, if you have one, otherwise a fork and some elbow grease
First you need to make a simple syrup: Add 2 cups water and 2 cups sugar into a saucepan, heat over low to medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until all the sugar has dissolved. A clear syrup, or a golden yellow syrup is fine, but you don’t want a brown or tar-like syrup, so don’t let it burn! When it turns brown the sugar is caramelizing, and that has a different flavor profile. When the sugar is dissolved, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
While that syrup is happening, cut your lemons in half crosswise. If you have a reamer tool or simple juicer contraption, you can juice your lemons and the seeds will be removed during that process and the juice collected. If not, you can use a bowl and a mesh strainer to squeeze your lemons into – the mesh will catch the seeds and the big chunks of pulp. Use a fork to squeeze out as much juice from the lemons as possible. When you’re done squeezing the 5 lemons, you should have about 8 ounces of lemon juice, and some nice rinds for zesting (lemon bars, anyone?), and/or for the compost pile. You could also fill the rinds with a peanut butter and birdseed and set it out for the birdies to munch on…but I digress.
In your pitcher, sprinkle the bottom with about 2 Tablespoons of sugar and add about 1 Tablespoon of water. Mix it around to get the sugar wet and clumpy.
Harvest some leaves from your mint sprigs, a nice handful (about a 1/3-1/2 cup), and place in the bottom of your pitcher. Take your muddler and press the mint into the sugar until it’s crushed. This part is kind of like making a mojito! You don’t have to completely destroy the leaves but know that as you press you are releasing the mint oils that have the cooling and refreshing taste you’re looking for.
Once that’s done, pour the lemon juice and 4 cups of water over your mint mash. Stir. Your lemon juice and sugar and mint leaves will make a green-ish liquid. While stirring, add 1 cup of the simple syrup. Taste. If you want it sweeter, slowly add more sweetness to taste. You will probably have some syrup left over, which you can store in an airtight container for future use (like in mojitos! I might be obsessed).
To serve, fill glasses with cube ice and pour your lemonade over the ice. If you don’t want ice, refrigerate your lemonade until cold, an hour or two, and then serve. Some folks might want to pour through a strainer to catch the crushed leaf pieces; if you don’t mind some leafy greens in your lemonade, feel free to just pour. Add a sprig of mint and a lemon wedge to the glass. Enjoy!
I suggest keeping the mixture refrigerated and you should probably consume each batch within about 24 hours, as the fresh mint will lose it’s “mintyness” over time and turn brown in the drink.
Want some other refreshing drink ideas? Check out this article.
I hope you enjoyed these fun recipes using veggies and mint from the garden. Let me know if you have your own recipes or tweaks to the ones presented here in the comments below. Enjoy!