Tuesday, November 25, 2014
It was Thanksgiving week. My Godfather was already here and my sister was on her way down with her kids (my niece and nephews). My Godfather had initial plans to go to Showcase of Citrus in Clermont. Instead, he found some place closer to get his raw peanuts and red oranges. He let us know that there was a wide array of produce as well as other essentials that we would need for our Thanksgiving Dinner.
As papa Smurf and I drove through Z-Hills to get there, it’s a very sleepy and no frills town. Alot of senior communities and trailer parks. When we arrived to the market, we pulled up on a cute little red open air barn, with a dirt and gravel parking lot. Once we entered we were pleasantly surprised. All I could think in my head at that moment was “Holy produce!” Not only did Shannon’s have everything that we would need comprised in a myriad of produce but a selection of items I had not ever seen before. This selection included, cranberry beans (a fuschia speckled with lime green bean), prickly pears (cactus pears), Chinese eggplant, red yams, and another fuschia colored item that resembled sea urchins. Just to name a few things I had not seen before in my foodie life. For every food item you can often find three or more variations; For instance, cabbage, red cabbage, and bok choy. Then there are green beans, pole beans, and as I shared earlier their cousins the cranberry beans lol. For yams, there are plain yams, golden yams, red yams, and oriental yams (purple in color I had never seen oriental yams before either). For onions, there are white onions, yellow onions, red onions, and shallots. With the fruits I noticed three different types of pears, red pears, white ones and green ones. Tomatoes and green tomatoes are also available. There is so much variety and everything is so fresh! Fresh herbs are cut straight from their plants. The selection is also abundant. Collard bunches are very very generous. One bunch moreso resembles three. Enough to completely fill a large brown grocery bag. There were lots of tropical and international produce staples available. I could go on and on about the produce. I stumbled upon some refrigerated goodies as well, which included homemade cream butter (just good old cream and salt). plants are also available for sale.
The customer service is very friendly, inviting, hospitable and warm. If you need any help or have questions about the produce it’s no problem. The owner gave my sister a lesson on prickly pears and cactus pears. She is very knowledgeable, knows her products and produce. At checkout she made sure that we didn’t mix up our cilantro and flat parsely. During our last visit (oh yes, we made two visits in one week), we had all of the littles in tow; which included a 2 year old, 3 year old, and two 5 year olds. All loud and very busy! Shannon came over and offered the kids two baskets of grapes and napkins. One for each cart, as we had the kids situated two to a cart. Anyone who shops with one or two (let alone 4) in this age range knows it can get crazy! The grapes were right on time, and they kept the kids quiet and contained for the rest of the trip.
After our first trip we had our whole cart full of produce for the Thanksgiving meal. The total came up to about $25, jumped to $30 once our extra large bag of string beans were added. For a cart full we knew very well at one of the chain stores we could have spent about $75 or more easy! So for us the price was right and we will definitely be back!
Friday, November 7, 2014
One thing I can say as a foodie, that I love about Florida so far, is the abundance of farm fresh produce at cheap prices! After church on Sunday we finally stopped by a produce stand that we always drive past on Old Pasco. We ended up getting two big huge bunches of collards, a bag of yellow squash, and a bag of sweet potatoes all for only $5! I saw that they were also selling green tomatoes! Which are hard to come by sometimes in the regular grocery chains. And no sooner than I asked Papa Smurf could we please get some, the farmer says matter of in a joking but knowing tone, “She wants her some fried green tomaters!”. I most certainly wanted them and for that exact reason lol. I really like fried green tomatoes. Papa Smurf on the other hand does not. They are an acquired taste though, so I was not surprised. My mother, though a New England states native, her cuisine and cooking style included not only New England style seafood, and Italian; but also there were a lot of southern staples, delicacies, and comfort foods that she would prepare for us. She was influenced by my Nana Fran’s Kansas City BBQ and spicy flavors, though she is a bit milder with her heat and can’t hang with Nana’s spice lol.
It was from my mother that I had the first experience of tasting fresh fried green tomatoes. She would use a lighter dusting for hers, but I decided that I would double dip between the egg wash, flour, and yellow cornmeal when I prepared mine. I’ll divulge another cooking secret for this recipe, I soak the tomatoes in salted and peppered water before frying ;-)
Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe
Fresh green tomatoes (I used only 4)
1-2 Cups of Cornmeal
1-2 Cups of Flour
Hot Sauce (just use your favorite)
Ground Black Pepper
1 Tblspn Cajun Seasoning Blend (preferably salt free)
Large non stick frying pan
1 Qt Canola Oil
Rinse and cut the green tomatoes into quarter inch thick round discs. Or you can cut them to the thickness of your choosing though it’s better not to cut them too thick. Soak the tomato discs in a large bowl of water. Before adding the water, salt the tomatoes with 1 tblspn of kosher salt and 2 teaspoons of ground black pepper. Soak the tomatoes for at least 15 minutes. During this time, I usually prep my frying oil, cornmeal and flour. I soak the tomatoes because of the texture of green tomatoes, I find that it is better to allow them to soak for a bit in order to season them. Prep your flour by only adding pinches of salt and pepper sparingly. Add your unsalted Cajun seasoning blend to the cornmeal. Beat two eggs in a bowl. I chose to leave the egg wash unseasoned. I used a regular frying pan in place of my deep fryer to fry the tomatoes. I like the texture of the fried green tomatoes better when using a frying pan instead of my deep fryer. There is something about using an old fashioned skillet to prepare them lol. Though, a deep fryer can be used if preferred.
Make sure your frying pan has at least 1 ½ inches (depth) of oil in and around it. As a seasoned cook, I usually know that the oil is ready when a sprinkle of cornmeal makes the oil sizzle. However, a technical rule of thumb is to allow the oil to reach a temperature of 350 degrees (esp for those using a deep fryer).
First, dip the tomato in the egg wash, then dredge in the flour, and then into the cornmeal. Shake off the excess, but make sure that the tomato is nicely coated. Fry in batches of 4 if you are using a frying pan, larger batches can be done if using a deep fryer. You want to fry the tomatoes until they are a light golden brown. Flip the tomatoes after they have cooked about 2-3 minutes on each side to achieve this perfectly fried coating. Remove and set aside on a paper towel or unused clean brown paper bags to soak up the excess oil and keep them crisp. Once the batches are all done, serve hot with a dash of hot sauce or your favorite dipping sauce. Enjoy!