Farm to Table Fried Green Tomatoes

A visit to the lowcountry these days or any seafood restaurant worth its weight wouldn’t be complete without a taste of Fried Green Tomatoes. Once considered a poor man’s food, today the dish is served with fancy dipping sauces all over the South and prices range anywhere from $7 for an appetizer to $16 or more for an entrée. For me, the Fried Green Tomato symbolizes stories of days gone by and aside from their crunchy, salty exterior, it’s the farm to table concept and nostalgia factor that make them so appealing.

It’s been said that Fried Green Tomatoes came about because when there was little to nothing to eat, farmers would harvest the green tomatoes before they ripened and fry them up. I don’t have a farm, but thankfully, you can purchase green tomatoes at Farmers Markets and in most produce sections of the grocery store.

I prefer my Fried Green Tomatoes crunchy, so I like to slice them thin, but it’s personal preference. My mom prefers hers on the thicker side.

Once your tomatoes are sliced, you’ll want to lay them on a baking sheet and salt them well. I used kosher salt because the pebbles are bigger and it really brings out the flavor. The salt also will draw the moisture out of the tomatoes.

I took this tip from Paula Deen. Put your salted tomatoes in a colander in the sink and allow them to drain for about 30 minutes before cooking. There’s nothing worse than a soggy, fried…anything.

My Great Aunt had 1 brother and 2 sisters, and recently shared with me that my Great-Grandmother would fix fried green tomatoes in a cast iron skillet, using cornmeal ground from fresh corn on the family farm in the 1950s. These are the stories that make a recipe rich. I used equal parts cornmeal and self-rising flour, then seasoned the mixture with 2 tsp of Old Bay and a healthy dash of black pepper. I’ve seen many variations of the recipe, but no buttermilk is needed!

After the tomato is coated good on each side, shake off any excess before dropping it into the hot vegetable oil. Be sure to roll the sides of the tomato in the flour mixture too, for a nice, even coating.

Fry the tomatoes, flipping once during cooking, just until golden…

…then remove and drain on paper towels.

This was my first time making the lowcountry dish, and I gotta tell ya, it wasn’t hard at all. Look how pretty they turned out! Serve them hot.

My favorite way to eat a Fried Green Tomato is on a BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato) sandwich. Now, there’s a way to elevate a classic to the next level.

What’s your take on the Fried Green Tomato? Love it? Hate it? Tell me how you like them! Is there a certain sauce you enjoy eating with them? I asked two of my favorite chefs to recommend a sauce, and one recommends a goat cheese basil sauce and the other, a zesty citrus remoulade.

I’m looking forward to experimenting.

3 Large Green Tomatoes
½ cup cornmeal
½ cup self-rising flour
2 Teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
Vegetable Oil for frying
Green Onion for garnish, optional

Slice tomatoes about ¼ of an inch thick. Place them on a flat surface and season with salt. Transfer the tomatoes to a colander and allow them to drain in the sink for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a cast iron skillet or 10-inch frying pan with vegetable oil halfway full and set over medium heat. The oil will be ready for frying when sizzling occurs after gently sprinkled with water. In a small dish, use a fork to combine the cornmeal, flour, Old Bay, salt and pepper. Dredge the tomatoes in the flour mixture on each side. Roll the sides of the tomato in the flour mixture too, to ensure an even coating. Shake off any excess before dropping the tomato slices into the hot oil. Fry the tomato slices until golden brown, turning once during cooking.  Remove them from the oil and drain on paper towels. Garnish with green onion.  Serve warm with Ranch Dressing if desired.

Watch me cook this recipe of fried green tomatoes on an episode of Statesboro Cooks!


Dining the Way the South Intended

South City Kitchen
Midtown Atlanta, Georgia

In a city as large as Atlanta, Georgia choosing a place to dine is like being on a weight-loss plan and trying to fill your plate with only your favorite dishes on Thanksgiving. That was the situation last Saturday as we drove around the A-T-L in search of the perfect brunch spot. It was South City Kitchen that won me over–the lively patio full of happy customers drew me in and as soon as I laid eyes on the menu, I knew we’d made the right choice.

We were greeted politely, then led through the cool, sophisticated dining room out onto the more relaxed patio. We took a seat in the wicker chairs and soon after, our well-dressed waiter delivered a bread basket and poured us up a cold glass of purified water. It’s the little details that really take a dining experience up a notch, like watching your server pour water into a clean drinking glass while sitting outside in the June humidity.  Filled with warm, soft biscuits and golden corn muffins, the basket also sported softened butter and cold apple butter for spreading. One bite of that biscuit and it was circa 1991 and I was in my Grandma’s kitchen without a care in the world.

On the menu, you’ll find many southern classics like Buttermilk Fried Chicken, BBQ Pork Sandwiches, She-Crab Soup and Grits & Grillades. Unpredictable side options like corn and tomato, kale salad and fingerlings are a nice surprise. The prices ranged anywhere from $5.95 for their House Made Granola to $19 for the Shrimp & Red Mule Grits- stone ground from Athens, Georgia.

The atmosphere is settling like a slower pace from a previous time. As a customer, you get the feeling you’re a respected guest. The restaurant’s most popular menu item is the Buttermilk Fried Chicken. Shrimp & Red Mule Grits takes second place.

I decided on the Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Waffle with pure maple syrup for $17. I must admit, I’ve always been curious of the combination. Crazy as it seems, it works. The crunchy fried chicken with the buttery waffle…now I know why it’s a Snoop Dogg favorite. Right on Snoop Doggy Dog!

We finished the meal with a sweet and fruity Watermelon Sorbet, available by one scoop or two, with coffee.

Finding parking was the only challenge to eating here, but after the chicken & waffle dish, it sure didn’t hurt me to walk a few blocks. Open since 1993, South City Kitchen lives up to its motto…dining the way the South intended.

South City Kitchen Midtown on Urbanspoon

A Saturday-Morning Tradition

Back in the Day Bakery
Savannah, Georgia

At the intersection of West 40th and Bull Streets under one lone palm tree in the Starland District of Savannah, Georgia sits Back in the Day Bakery, so fondly known as The Best Little Bakery in the South. I had wanted to visit for weeks, ever since I’d seen Cheryl Day, co-owner, cooking with Paula Deen on Food Network. It was everything I’d hoped it would be and more.

I was in love from the moment I entered. Love at first sight. It was like sensory overload. The smell of fresh bread. The cottage, rustic, modern style. The retro appliances. The vintage dishes. The coastal color palette. The inviting seating area above immediately caught my eye–I couldn’t get over the live baby’s breath anchored in tin pails and the over-sized chairs. This was a place I could come daily, I thought.

Rosemary Ciabatta bread and Pugliese loaves (a crusty italian bread), along with Sunny Lemon Bars and Bourbon Bread Pudding fill the window as you approach the cashier to place your order.

Then I saw it. Cinnamon Sticky Buns. It just so happened that I had visited Back in the Day bakery on a special day–Saturday morning, the only time of the week Griff Day, co-owner, bakes these unbelievably freakin’ good send-you-to-church delicacies. Made with local honey from the Savannah Bee Company, the buns have a sweet-spicy filling, a caramel glaze and a tangy, oh-my-sweet-heavenly-Lord, cream cheese frosting. The taste was enough to make this Southern Baptist begin speaking in tongues.

I enjoyed my Cinnamon Sticky Bun with a cup of the Bakery’s best-selling organic breakfast tea for $1.75.

The floor and counter tops are cement…just another little detail that adds to the nostalgia.

Simple syrup, a combination of equal parts water and sugar, is available to sweeten your tea or coffee. I like using simple syrup because it allows you to be in control of your sugar intake…of pristine importance when you’re downing Cinnamon Sticky Buns. 😉 You’ll also find utensils for the taking in classic Mason Jars.

Back in the Day Bakery doesn’t just sell baked goods, lunch is also served daily from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Above, the Rosemary Chicken sandwich is made with chicken, red onion, celery, black currants and herb spiced mayo.

Who wouldn’t want to sit underneath this?

 The Days have really succeeded in creating a true experience. The food draws you in and the atmosphere makes you want to stay.

The Bakery opened in 2002. Their best seller? An Old-Fashioned Vanilla Cupcake with Vanilla Buttercream. The cupcakes above were fresh from the oven.

Even the staff members are colorful. Decked out in aprons with handkerchiefs on their heads, they offer friendly service with a smile.

My trip wouldn’t have been complete without purchasing The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook. Buy it from the Bakery and you’ll get an autographed copy! If the recipes contained in this book taste anything like the Saturday-morning tradition Cinnamon Sticky Buns, it’ll be the best $24.95 I’ve ever spent.

Back In The Day Bakery on Urbanspoon

My Lowcountry Boil Birthday Bash

On a cool Friday night in early spring, all the conditions were right for my lakeside lowcountry boil. I was celebrating the last year in my 20’s, and I was ready to have one dang good party.

Check out my video to see us cooking, but be forewarned, we are not professional videographers, there’s a lot going on and I was really excited…LOL!

View the photos below to see how the rest of my birthday bash went down:
For weeks, I anticipated the celebration keeping in mind simplicity, coastal inspiration and rustic elements. I covered the tables where guests would eat with burlap, then placed silver pails on top for discarding shrimp hulls. Yellow flowers popped, and votive candles, sprinkled throughout, illuminated the evening.
I found this nautical fabric and just had to incorporate it in the party! I made silverware bundles with it using rope to keep with the theme of things. It’s all in the details!

If I had to think of one meal that expressed exactly who I am, without a doubt, a lowcountry boil it would be. Potatoes, shrimp, corn and sausage with Old Bay seasoning…does it get any better? Poured out on a newspaper-covered table, it’s everything I am…laid back, delicious and colorful. HA! I really can’t think of any other combination of ingredients that says “Let’s Party!” more.

Much like a cocktail without a garnish, no lowcountry boil is proper without Charleston Benne Wafers. On a recent trip to the Carolina Lowcountry, I picked up some crab dip mix and a package of the popular cookie at the Charleston Market. Learn more about my trip by checking out my post, Carolina Lowcountry Classics with My Best Friend. Also pictured above: Mom’s cheese ball with jalapeno pepper and pineapple served with Ritz crackers, coconut cupcakes with coconut-cream cheese frosting, garnished with toasted coconut and lime cheesecake pies.

Fresh fruit is always a welcomed dish. These strawberries came from The Strawberry Patch, a Mennonite Farm in Waynesboro, Georgia and the pineapple, you just gotta love it.

When all the food was ready, the table looked amazing–especially combined with a yard full of friends and family, and our Bourbon and Blenheim signature cocktails. The menu also included fresh bread and my mom’s amazing crab stew made with sherry. I found the perfect bowls for serving the stew at a local restaurant supply store.

This is my good friend Patrick, and our bartender for the evening. Our signature cocktail, called a B&B featured high quality bourbon and Blenheim, a spicy ginger ale from none other than Charleston. Garnished with fresh mint, the beverage was a refreshing palate cleanser. Iced tea, bottled water, Coke, wine and beer, along with boiled peanuts, also were served.

Getting ready to grub down! From left: My brother Joey, and my best friends Levi and Angela.

A fine evening indeed. From left: Angela, me and Patrick.

 There’s no greater feeling than being surrounded by people you love. I’m blessed.

After we ate, everyone drifted over to the fire to hang out, play guitar and sing. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect.
My fabulous guests and new friends Tori and John–Love them!

That was one heck of a party, if I do say so myself! A GIANT thank you and shout out to my mom, dad, brother Joey and sister-in-law Sarah, and my friends Patrick, Angela and Levi for help with set up and break down, cooking, cleaning and bartending. 😉 It certainly takes a team to pull off a party like that and I couldn’t have done it without y’all!

As I looked around the fire that night, I realized that I’ve had the same friends since I was 12 years old. Birthday after birthday throughout my life, they’ve all been there. In addition to that, there were new faces too and I couldn’t be more blessed. To each one that made my birthday special, I am thankful for you everyday.

Now, if only I can top that party for the big 3-0!

Carolina Lowcountry Classics with My Best Friend

Charleston Crab House Seafood Restaurant
Charleston, South Carolina

I don’t know what it is about being in the Carolina lowcountry that makes me want to eat fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits, but every time I visit, without fail, those are the dishes I order. My best friend and I recently visited Charleston for the Miranda Lambert On Fire Tour and among shopping on King Street, sampling benne wafers in the City Market and getting wind-blown on the giant porch swings at Waterfront Park near the battery, we had lunch at the Charleston Crab House Seafood Restaurant. What did we order, you ask? You guessed it–Fried Green Tomatoes and BBQ Shrimp & Grits.

Check out that presentation! Don’t you just love the pop of color those scallions give this dish? The BBQ Shrimp & Grits is a house specialty. It was actually an appetizer, but it will fill you up! Now, I had never had barbecue sauce on my shrimp & grits before and I wasn’t sure if I’d like it. Let me tell you, it is a beautiful combination. Man alive, it was Some Kinda Good y’all. The tangy barbecue sauce really compliments the cheddar jack cheese grits and the perfectly succulent shrimp. This dish will run you $8.99.

We were really hungry after our two and half hour drive from Augusta, Georgia so needless to say we gobbled down the fried green tomatoes before I thought to get a picture. I might add, we had a very hard time making a decision because the menu had an awesome selection! Sandwiches, pasta, seafood platters, garden selections and raw bar items are just a few of the options.

After lunch, we made our way to the pier. It was a stormy and windy day but the seagulls were out and about just the same. I love looking off the dock at all the shrimp boats and large carriers wondering where they’re headed.

This blog post would not be complete without a shout out to my girl, Miranda Lambert. She packed out the North Charleston Coliseum and rocked the house!

And now, just for fun, a little film strip of our attempts to get a good picture while hanging out near the Battery.

So, there. Country music, good seafood and my best friend in the Carolina Lowcountry…the finer things in life. It really doesn’t get much better.

What’s your favorite lowcountry classic activity?

Charleston Crab House on Urbanspoon

Pear Crisp Brings Memories of Grandma and Grandpa

Baking a pear crisp was a fantastic way to use up the Harry and David’s Royal Riviera Pears I received as a Christmas gift. Pears aren’t a fruit I work with or have on-hand often, but they are delicious and a nice change from the every day apple. Flavorful and comforting, this recipe for Pear Crisp was taken from Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible.

Check out the pictures below to see how I completed the recipe.

After the pears are peeled, cored and sliced, toss them with sugar and cinnamon.

Spread the filling in your casserole dish.

Combine your dry ingredients, then cut in cold butter. It’s important that your butter is cold so the mixture becomes nice and crumbly.

You can use a fork or a pastry cutter, but I find that using my hands works just as well. As Ina Garten says, clean hands are a cook’s best tools. Just work quickly, because you don’t want the heat from your hands to melt that butter.

Stir in your almonds, then crumble your topping over the filling.

The filling bubbles over and the topping gets crispy and golden brown. I like to serve it warm with vanilla ice cream, but it also tastes great at room temperature. Enjoy!

What I like to call “The Help Spread”

Shortly after watching the popular movie The Help, I was inspired to go home and create a southern spread. On the menu: fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, farm raised green beans, made from scratch biscuits, fried okra and apple pie.Image