Green Tomato Gratin

Fried green tomatoes are good, but this gratin is better! This, to date, is my favorite dish made with green tomatoes. (Well, now the Green Tomato Salsa I made over the weekend rivals for first place.) I’m a southern gal, so I’ve had those unripe tomatoes–maybe always?–battered and fried. And then there was this. I don’t watch much tv, but if I do I navigate immediately to Food Network. Last time I was there, Claire Robinson was making a Green Tomato and Vidalia Onion Gratin, so I adapted her recipe to what was in my kitchen. It was delicious. It is delicious. Go ahead, pick those tomatoes early!

Green Tomato Gratin
recipe for an 8×8 in. baking dish
serves 4 as a side dish

2-3 green tomatoes, sliced thick
2 tablespoons bacon grease or olive oil
1 large onion*, sliced thick
½ tablespoon sugar, optional*
About 1 cup grated cheese (Swiss or white cheddar)–I used Swiss. It was yum.
1 cup bread crumbs
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place tomato slices in the bottom of a baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle a bit of salt and crack some pepper over the green tomatoes. In a skillet, heat the bacon grease or olive oil and add the onion slices. Sauté the onions until they are translucent. At this point, sprinkle the sugar over the onions and cook them a bit more to begin to caramelize the sugar. Then, arrange the cooked onions on top of the tomato slices in the baking dish. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the onions. In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the remaining bacon grease or olive oil (from the skillet in which the onions were cooked). Stir until the grease is incorporated into the breadcrumbs, then sprinkle the breadcrumbs atop the cheese layer. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly.

*Claire’s recipe calls for Vidalia onions, which are naturally sweet. I had yellow onions at home, so I added sugar to get some sweetness and caramelization—great resulting flavor!

It’s quite easy:

Breadcrumbs are the last layer, but silly me forgot to photograph that.

And from the oven:

I leave the room and it's nearly gone.

I think you will love it.


Fish Tacos with a Golden Friend—and the fabulous Salsas!

Her name’s Lacey. I’m pretty sure I met her in preschool, but those days are fuzzy in my mind. However, it wasn’t until high school that we became best friends. Like, “let’s-spend-the-night-together-the-night-before-the-first-day-of-school”, ride-around-in-our-cars-just-to-listen-to-music-and-sing-along, go-on-beach-vacations-with-her-family best friends. Lacey has many wonderful qualities, but perhaps she’s best described as unique–and in being herself, she gives others the confidence to be themselves. I love her. Anyway, Lacey’s been living in Johnson City for the past six years. We’ve remained friends, inevitably growing apart with distance, but it’s always easy for us to pick up where we left off. At this moment, I am sitting on her couch in JC. I’ve visited her here in East Tennessee several times in the past, and this time’s the last—she’s soon to be a resident of New Mexico! One last Johnson City hoorah and a lazy Saturday together in our pajamas.

Before I left Cookeville I picked some red and green tomatoes and a couple of jalapenos from my parents’ garden—knowing we’d put them to good use over the weekend. Boy, did we ever! Lacey and I had a stupendous 10:00 pm dinner consisting of Baked Halibut-filled tacos garnished with Spicy Honey-Lime Coleslaw, Green Tomato Salsa, Mango Pico de Gallo, White Queso Dip, and avocado slices. It was awesome. It was really awesome. The flavors were bright, and the meal was fresh and light. I’m so excited I had to start blogging right after we cleared the table! And looking at the pictures, I want to eat it all again!

Now for the recipes!

Green Tomato Salsa (this is deliciously fresh-tasting!)

2 green tomatoes, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ a jalapeno pepper, chopped
½ a red onion, chopped
2-3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped (a small handful)
juice from half a lime
salt and pepper to taste

Put it all in a food processor. Pulse until smooth (or a bit chunky if you prefer).

Mango Pico de Gallo

2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
¼ a red onion, chopped
½ a mango, chopped
½ a jalapeno pepper, chopped
chili powder (1-2 teaspoons)
garlic powder (1-2 teaspoons)
juice from half a lime
salt to taste

Just stir everything together, adjusting spices and salt to taste.

Spicy Honey-Lime Coleslaw

Olive oil (about 3 tablespoons)
juice from half a lime
honey (1-2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon chili powder
dash of cayenne pepper (to taste)
salt to taste

2 cups coleslaw mix (we had a cabbage-carrot mix)
small handful cilantro, roughly chopped (about 3 tablespoons)

Mix all ingredients for the dressing together and stir into the coleslaw with cilantro to coat.

Lacey’s Baked Halibut

2 8-oz. halibut filets

2 cups milk
juice from half a lime
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 ½ teaspoons chili powder

Mix everything together for the marinade. Sprinkle halibut filets with salt. Pour marinade over the filets and let it sit at room temperature for a minimum of 15 minutes. Sear the fish in a bit of olive oil (skin side down first!) on both sides in a cast iron skillet, spooning some of the excess marinade over the fish to coat. Transfer the skillet to a 375 degree oven and bake the halibut uncovered for 10-15 minutes (or until fully cooked and flaky).

Lacey’s Enhanced White Queso Dip

6 oz. Mexican Dipping Cheese (the white processed cheese product found in the Mexican cheese section at the grocery store), jalapeno variety
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon chopped red onion
½ teaspoon ground coriander

Cube the cheese and add milk. Microwave until nearly melted. Stir in the onion and coriander and microwave until melted and smooth.

Add a chip and it's heaven!

A Clockwork Orangutan, waiting patiently (and sullenly) for dinner

Lacey has gun-shaped ice cubes. Of course she does.

Colorful taco!

Friendly Dinner...much chip-dipping is about to occur.

P.S. All the components of this meal were great together, but each one could be complimentary to other dishes as well. And the salsa and pico de gallo are wonderful summer appetizers with chips!

P.P.S. Lacey, we’re an awesome cooking team!