AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Recipes for the Impatient Gardener DATE: 7/14/2008 09:36:00 AM ----- BODY:
I’ve always known my garden is a few weeks behind everyone else. As I spy the neighbors’ yards in early spring when the crocuses start to burst, mine are still under a mound of snow. And when I go to the farmers markets, they already have mounds of zucchini, while I only have flowers. Their kohlrabi is just winding down, and mine still has a few weeks to go before harvest. Nonetheless, I’m eager to push the garden along.

Two weeks ago, I reported that the tomatoes had flowered, but not produced fruit. A little on-line research yielded a useful tip… Cut the leaves below the first flower. This enables to the plant to focus its energies on producing fruit as opposed to maintaining the foliage. Sure enough, two days later the first bump of a tomato emerged. Now all tomato plants show fruit, though still several weeks away from ripeness.

At dinner Thursday night at Garden at the Cellar, we munched on Fried Green Tomatoes with Smoked Paprika Aioli. One friend opined that the origins of this dish come from resourceful gardeners using up end-of-the-season tomatoes before the first frost hit. Knowing the tomatoes wouldn’t have a chance to ripen, they picked and fried them.

To offer this dish seasonally, it should only appear on menus in the fall. I would counter that fried green tomatoes are also a great option for the impatient gardener looking to cook something before the crops are truly ripe. Should you go this route, be sure to pick the tomatoes when the green has a “matte” finish. Once they become shiny, they’ve reached a different level of maturity and will get mushy when cooked.

Zucchini is the ideal crop for the impatient gardener. The plant produces flowers at a prolific rate. Most flowers are male and will not produce a vegetable, so there’s no harm in harvesting them. If the flower is attached to a thick stem, likely it will produce a squash. For me, I’m happy to just eat the flowers. I know in a few weeks, I’ll be up to my eyeballs in squash and peddling them the way I did sage.

Fried Green Tomatoes with a Squash Blossom Relish.
3 green tomatoes
½ cup buttermilk
1/2 cup fine corn meal
½ cup flour
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Pinch cayenne
2 slices bacon
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp. capers
12 squash blossoms, stamen removed
2 tbs. canola oil

Slice tomatoes about ¼ inch thick. Soak in buttermilk.

Season cornmeal with salt, pepper and cayenne.

Dice bacon, and cook in a skillet until the bacon starts to render fat, and the bacon just starts to look crispy. Add garlic and cook for until the garlic is lightly golden. Pour off any excess bacon fat and set aside. Add capers and squash blossoms and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil with leftover bacon fat.

Dust tomatoes slices in the cornmeal dredge. Add to oil, and cook on the first side until golden brown, about 5 minutes on medium high heat. Flip and cook for 3 minutes more. Drain tomato slices on a paper towel and serve with chutney.

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