You can’t beat Ohio’s big red tomatoes


Sheryl Sollars - Welcome To My Kitchen



My tomatoes are ripening on the vines and my canner is humming. This week Fred and I processed 11 jars of pasta sauce and there will more tomatoes next week.

I have tried several different recipes for spaghetti sauce but have not found anything that can beat Mrs. Wages Pasta Sauce. It makes a sauce that is light and fresh tasting, and the best thing is, it is so easy.

One thing that I know for sure — there are no tomatoes like Ohio’s big red ones. I know that no matter what type of tomato that I bought when I lived in Florida they could not compare to Ohio or other northern grown ones.

There is something about the taste and texture of Ohio’s homegrown tomatoes that are irresistible.

I can remember when I was a growing up in Kingman, my grandfather planted a large garden in the lot next to our house. He always put out 12-15 tomato plants consisting of all varieties.

I can remember once they ripened, I would pick one and wash it off, then sit down with a salt shaker and eat it like an apple. Sometimes it would still be warm from the sun.

I guess the vegetables he raised would be considered organic by today’s standards as he used compost mixture as fertilizer. (It would be fresh from our “garbage pile” as we called it then!)

Of course sometimes the tomatoes never got to the point of ripening because one of our family favorites was “Fried Green Tomatoes.” If you have never eaten one of these delicacies, you do not know what you are missing. There is no way to describe their taste except to tell you they are slightly tart and if prepared correctly, very crunchy!

I’ve tasted many different versions of this American classic but none taste like the one I grew up to love.

First of all, there are some things that are essential when preparing the tomatoes. If you follow these steps, I guarantee you will be serving fried tomatoes every chance you get. The only downfall to them is the time it takes to fry them and how difficult it is to not eat them faster than you can get them out of the skillet.

This is where I have to tell you my mother deserves a ribbon for preparing and frying enough of these jewels to feed a family of seven! There had to be a limit to how many she could make or she could be frying all night long.

To remedy this problem, she actually counted how many tomatoes we each got so we did not argue who got more than the other!

Along with the directions for making fried green tomatoes, I am sharing with you one of my favorite recipes for Fresh Tomato Salsa. I obtained the original recipe from my brother Jeff who got it from a Jeff Smith cookbook. (Many of you might remember him from his TV cooking show several years ago.)

I have played with this recipe and made it my own by adding several fresh herbs and seasonings. It is not only the best salsa you will ever eat but is wonderful served in other dishes.

SHERYL’S SALSA

By using all fresh ingredients, this is the freshest salsa you will ever eat! Don’t let the ingredients fool you. It is really easy to make. The herbs needed for this recipe can be found in all grocery stores in the produce department. This is a mild flavored salsa. If you want a hotter flavor add more Jalapeno peppers along with their SEEDS and membrane.

5-6 large ripe tomatoes

1 green pepper, cut into 1” pieces

4 medium Jalapeno peppers *

1 cup celery cut into 1” pieces

1 medium sweet onion (cut in 6-8 pieces)

*Cut in half then remove all white membrane and seeds

Peel and cut tomatoes into small pieces. Place remaining vegetables into food processor and chop into small pieces. Add to tomatoes. Mix in:

1 ½ tablespoon minced garlic

3 teaspoons Kosher salt

2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper

¼ cup chopped Cilantro

3 tablespoons chopped basil

1 tablespoon vinegar

3 tablespoons lime juice

After mixing salsa, store it in refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving. The longer it sets, the more flavor it will have. Serve cold with chips.

CHICKEN WITH SALSA

All you need is a salad and bread and you have a complete meal.

Drain 1 cup juice from tomato salsa. Refrigerate remaining salsa for later use. Salt boneless, skinless chicken breasts and then marinade in drained juice for at least 2 hours. Remove and grill over low heat basting with marinade. While chicken is grilling, cook thin spaghetti in boiling salt water. Drain and place on plate. Top with grilled chicken and then pour fresh tomato salsa over the top. Sprinkle with fresh parmesan cheese. NOTE: This is a great way to use your fresh salsa and is a dish which is both hot and cold!

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES

Remember, THIN is the key to a great crispy fried green tomato.

Slice medium green tomatoes (avoid ones that have red spots as they will be sour!) to 1/8” thick or the thinnest slice your slicer will make and still have a complete slice. Place in large bowl with 1 tablespoon salt. Let soak at least 1 hour (longer if possible). Pour off water but let the tomatoes remain wet so the flour will stick. In a pie plate, combine 1½ cup flour with 1 teaspoon pepper. Working with 2-3 tomatoes at a time, dredge them in the flour mixture and place them on a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper. Continue until all of the tomatoes are covered. Combining more flour and pepper as needed, dredge each tomato one more time, starting with the first ones coated. Allow floured tomatoes to sit on wax paper covered cookie sheets in single layers for at 30 minutes. This will allow the flour to set up and form a crisp fried tomato. Heat a large heavy skillet filled with oil 1” deep until it becomes hot but not smoking. Place enough tomatoes in the skillet to fill but not overfill. Fry about 3 min. and then turn and fry 2 more minutes or until golden brown. Remove and drain on a large cookie sheet that has been covered with 2 layers of paper towels. Place in warm oven until all tomatoes have been cooked. Eat immediately to prevent tomatoes from becoming soggy. ENJOY!

Have a great week. — Sheryl

Sheryl Sollars, a Clinton County native, is an accomplished cook and homemaker. She contributes her column “Welcome to My Kitchen” out of her love of homemaking and of sharing her thoughts with her readers. If you have cooking questions or a recipe you want to share, please contact Sheryl at kitchenlady44@yahoo.com.

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Sheryl Sollars

Welcome To My Kitchen