I love these next two dishes. I guess they are both essentially “salads” but John and I ate them together as a meal in and of themselves for dinner the other night. Since both are mildly addicting (we ate WAY too much of both), I feel like they are truly a meal in and of themselves. The Greek Orzo came from another attempt at finding a yummy way to use up cucumbers and since we have been drowning in cherry tomatoes as well, I thought I’d combine the two. And nothing says tomatoes and cucumbers to me like a good Greek salad. I made it a little more hearty with the pasta and it also allows the salad to keep longer since a typical tomato cucumber salad often gets soupy and mushy by day two. I love the use of cherry tomatoes for added sweetness (though diced fresh tomatoes would work as well). It is a really simple and yummy pasta dish and is wonderful because it barely takes any time to throw together.
And then there is the Fried Green Tomato Caprese…um yum. So, I actually stole the idea from a restaurant here in Carborro, Acme. This is one of John and I’s favorite appetizers and since our Early Girl tomato plants are going crazy, I thought it would be fun to make my own version. Green tomatoes are often overlooked, but they are a firmer, more subtle version of their fully ripened red counter parts. If you don’t have your own tomato plants, you can buy green tomatoes SUPER cheap at your local farmer’s market. This appetizer/salad will seriously wow your friends at the next dinner party you host. It is a great balance of sweet and salty, acidic and rich. It looks super chic on a plate, it’s a fun twist on an old southern favorite and of course it tastes delish! So here are a couple of just fun mid July recipes…
Greek Orzo Pasta
1 lb orzo pasta (cooked al dente)
4 cups cherry tomatoes halved
3-4 small to med cucumbers (or 2 large cucumbers) peeled, seeded and chopped into bite sized pieces
1/4 c kalamata olives
1-2 small onions very thinly sliced (or 1 med onion)
8 oz feta cheese crumbled
about 3 TBSP olive oil
1/2 c red wine or sherry vinegar
a extra large handful of basil roughly chopped
salt and lots of pepper to taste
1. Cook pasta in salted water until Al Dente. Drain and return to the pot. Toss in olive oil.
2. Add the thinly sliced onions and the vinegar to the hot orzo so the onions will cook slightly from the heat of the pasta and the vinegar will be soaked up by both the pasta and onions.
3. Once the pasta has cooled add the diced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, basil and feta. Toss until combined.
4. Salt and pepper to taste (you can also adjust the acidity here by either adding more vinegar or if it is too acidic for your taste you can add a tsp of honey to balance the flavors). I added a lot of pepper and much less salt because feta is so naturally salty.
Serve warm or cold.
Fried Green Tomato Caprese
4 large green tomatoes sliced into about 1/2 in slices with the ends discarded
1/2 c Panko bread crumbs
1/4 c corn meal
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese finely grated
1/2 c flour
1/4 c milk
salt and pepper
1/2 c olive oil (or vegetable oil) for frying
Fresh mozzarella cheese
Small handful of basil thinly sliced
a little dash of basalmic vinegar
1. Lay out all of the green tomatoes on a large plate or cookie sheet. Lightly salt and pepper both sides of the tomatoes and set aside (it is really important to season the tomatoes to bring out their subtle flavor).
2. Preheat a large frying pan with 1/2 cup oil to med high. Meanwhile, in 3 large dishes prepare your breading.
Dish 1: Flour mixed with a pinch of salt
Dish 2: Egg and milk beaten together with a pinch of salt
Dish 3: Combine the bread crumbs, corn meal, parmesan cheese and little bit of salt and pepper.
3. Begin the dredging and frying process. Take one slice of tomato, first dredge it in the flour until it is coated and shake of any excess. Next coat it in the milk/egg mixture again making sure to coat well and shaking off any excess. Lastly place in the bread crumb mixture making sure to press the bread crumbs into the tomato and completely covering the tomato slice with the bread crumb mixture.
4. Carefully place into the pan. Repeat with remaining tomato slices and fry 4-5 at a time (depending on the size of your pan, don’t let the tomatoes touch). Fry until golden brown on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side.
**Be careful to adjust your heat according to how quickly the tomatoes are frying up. You may have to lower the heat if they are over browning or raise the heat if it is taking more than 5 minutes, you do not want mushy or burnt tomatoes!**
5. Arrange slices on a plate and top with a thin slice fresh mozzarella and some basil. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
Serve hot and crispy!