I don't know why I had to take one of the healthiest appetizer/salad/snack concoctions on the planet and fry it, but I'd do it again. In a heartbeat.
See those white edges? That's fried mozzarella oozing out of the breading, because I breaded and fried the cheese, too. I've already decided that I'm going to be grounded for the week and I must eat nothing but wheat bread and carrots until I understand the consequences of my actions.
To be fair, there are some fresh, ripe tomatoes in the center, sprinkled with fresh basil and dressed very lightly with white wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil. When I was making this plate of fried goodness, I didn't really know what the final product would look like. I knew I wanted to use some unfried tomato, and I started assembling the plate by inserting red slices between the fried green tomatoes and cheese. But right off the bat, that spelled disaster--too much fresh tomato juice touching the crispy sides of the fried items = soggy, sad crusts. So I took the slices out, chopped them up, and piled them in the center, kind of like a chunky salsa (and hopefully a solid reminder of the origins of the dish).
This is a very simple recipe, and people love it, and I do hope you try it. You can even use underripe tomatoes that aren't green but just light pinkish. They'll hold together well enough and be super tasty.
fried green tomato caprese
- 1 large green tomato, sliced into 4 rounds
- 1 8-oz ball fresh mozzarella cheese, ends trimmed off, sliced into 4 rounds (the chef gets to snack on the trimmings)
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 to 2 teaspoons Creole seasoning, or any combination of dried herbs & spices that you like (dried basil would be particularly nice)*
- salt and pepper
- 4 to 8 tablespoons of butter, olive oil, or a combination
- 1 large ripe tomato (or 10 or 12 ripe cherry tomatoes), roughly chopped
- a few fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Beat the eggs with about 1 tablespoon of water in a shallow dish. Combine the flour, cornmeal, and seasoning (or dried herbs) in another shallow dish. Add salt and pepper to the flour mixture if your seasoning isn't salty or spicy--you know your seasoning--so do whatever needs to be done for good flavor in the finished product.
- Melt 4 tablespoons of butter (or oil) in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Dip tomato slices in egg, then in flour mixture (press the flour down somewhat so it sticks to the slices). Add them to the skillet and cook about 3 or 4 minutes on each side, turning once, until crispy and light golden brown. You may need to adjust the heat as you're frying to keep them from burning but still maintain a nice sizzle. Drain the tomatoes on a paper towel-lined plate.
- If there's still a good amount of fat in the pan, just use that to fry the cheese. If you think you might need more, add it now and let it heat up. Dredge the mozzarella slices just like you did the tomatoes--eggs, then flour mixture. Add them to the skillet and cook for about 3 minutes on each side, until light golden brown, turning once. The cheese will probably start oozing out the sides of the breading, but that's a good thing, in my opinion. If you use a nonstick skillet and don't worry too much about keeping them pretty, they'll turn out just fine. Drain them briefly on paper towels as well.
- On a large plate, alternate slices of fried tomatoes and cheese, overlapping slightly. In the hole in the center of the plate, pile the fresh tomato pieces. Drizzle the vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil over the fresh tomatoes. Sprinkle about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt over the fresh tomatoes, grind lots of black pepper over everything (fresh tomatoes and fried things), and sprinkle fresh basil over the top. Serve it as soon as you can so the cheese is still soft and warm.
As an appetizer, this serves 4 people who will be your friends for life.
*Note: I have a hunch that adding some freshly grated parmagiano-reggiano cheese to the breading would be on the awesome side. There probably is a law against frying cheese in a cheese crust, but I'll continue to dream until someone shows it to me.