It's no wonder I've had so many readers contact me about recipes for fried green tomatoes.
Not only is it that time of year, when using up what's left of any remaining green tomatoes still lingering on garden vines is a now or never venture, but fried green tomatoes have become a very trendy menu item in swanky restaurants.
Don't let this week's flirting with 80-degree temps fool you. Cold and a certain "hard freeze" is going to happen sooner than later. And while my dad likes to use Aunt Lottie's trick of picking green tomatoes and allowing them to ripen in a brown paper grocery bag, I'm still more of a fan of savoring the unique tangy taste of fresh and firm green tomatoes plucked from the garden. Amazing as it sounds, a few of our tomato plants even still have yellow blossoms, teasing a fruit yield that's not likely to ever materialize before November cold.
While we also use green tomatoes to grind into the flecks used in our homemade picklelilly relish, there's no denying that my favorite flavor leaning is still for old fashioned fried green tomatoes. Chefs at popular Chicago restaurants not only serve this southern favorite as an appetizer, but also for other inventive options, like first course fried green tomato salad, drizzled with creamy buttermilk dressing.
One reader I spoke to, Dolores Thompson of Hammond, asked me to share my favorite fried green tomato recipes. This is an easy request to answer, since on this subject, I defer to the expert: comedienne-turned-author Fannie Flagg.
This funny redhead, known to many for her TV game show days on "Match Game," as well as Alan Funt's foil on "Candid Camera," is also the woman who wrote the 1987 novel "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe," which was made into the popular 1991 film. Fannie just turned 68 last month and during my earliest days as a reporter, I interviewed her for a food cover story as she shared three recipe variations for her favorite fried green tomatoes, which she included in a family cookbook.
I preserved and cherished her passed along recipe variations in my original, now out-of-print, first "From the Farm" cookbook published in 2004. For those readers who never found a copy (not many were printed at the time,) I've discovered copies of this first cookbook now sell for as much as $120 on the Internet. For anyone who has asked about other available copies, my mother has found four copies that she now has available for readers. (Contact me for any details.)
As for today's featured recipe, I've selected another savory and tasty find.
Nathan Underwood, 20, of Winfield, Ill., is one of the students in my Valparaiso University public speaking class this semester. For his demonstrative speech, Nathan, who plans to be a high school math teacher, shared an easy recipe for zesty marinated pretzels that are perfect for football season and holiday gatherings with nibbling guests. Enjoy!
Nathan Underwood's Marinated Pretzel Snacks
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 (10-ounce) envelope of dry ranch salad dressing
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 (16-ounce) bag of mini pretzels
2 tablespoons dry Parmesan cheese (optional)
DIRECTIONS: Combine all dry ingredients and set aside. Place pretzels in a large gallon-size zip-seal bag, pour in oil and toss to coat pretzels. Pour dry seasonings into bag and shake to coat until pretzels are evenly covered. Makes 10 servings.