Cheddar cheese and pesto add kick to fried green tomatoes

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From the August 2018 issue

friedgreentomatoes-AUG2018 A Southern Classic With a Twist - Delaware Beach LifePatsy Rankin knows her vegetables, and not just because she is the chef and owner of Patsy’s Restaurant in Bethany Beach. For 20 years, Rankin was a vegetarian.

“I do eat meat and seafood now, but on many days, I’m all vegetarian,” says the Ocean View resident, whose restaurant opened its doors in 2000.

Rankin is in the right place then. At this time of year, tables at area farmers markets are laden with purple and white eggplants, cartons of green beans, sweet peppers and, of course, tomatoes.

With the popularity of heirloom varieties, tomatoes now come in an array of colors, from royal purple to fire engine red. At Patsy’s, however, it’s the unripe tomatoes that get the diners’ attention. The fried green tomato starter is a menu mainstay.

The dish includes a cheddar cheese spread that her late husband, Kirk, a native of Nashville, Tenn., created. “We used to eat it at home with crackers,” says Rankin, who despite her education in French cuisine loves comfort food. “It seemed like a good fit for the fried green tomato dish, too.”

She and Kirk were married for 43 years, and with his passing in October 2017, she now sees the dish as a homage to him.

Although she’s owned Patsy’s for nearly two decades, Rankin didn’t start culinary school until she was 46. She’s been a telephone operator, graphic designer and balloon decorator. The Washington, D.C., native has also worked on a tugboat on the Potomac River and owned kite shops in Bethany and Rehoboth.

But Rankin, who works with her daughter, Robin, says the hospitality business is the best fit. “At this point in my life,” she says, “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”


Friend Green Tomatoes With Cheese Spread and Pesto

(serves 4-5 as an appetizer)


For the cheese spread:
2    red peppers
2    cups of shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
½     cup of plain yogurt
½     cup of mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste

Over a stove’s gas burner (don’t use electric), roast the peppers, turning often so they char evenly. You can also rub them with olive oil and place them in a 400-degree preheated oven until the skins blister.

Remove from the heat, place in a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap until they’re cool enough to handle — about 15 minutes. The charred skin should slip off. Also remove the seeds and stems. Dice the peppers.

Place the cheese, yogurt and mayonnaise in a bowl with the diced peppers, salt and pepper. Mix. The cheese spread will last in the fridge for several days.


For the pesto:
1     cup of packed basil leaves
2     cloves of garlic
¼     cup of grated parmesan cheese
¼     cup of toasted pine nuts
½     cup of olive oil

Add all but the olive oil to a food processor or blender and blend. As you blend, slowly add the olive oil until the mix is smooth. (You may not need all the oil.) Refrigerated, the pesto will also keep for several days.


For the tomatoes:
4-5    large green (unripe) tomatoes
1     cup of flour seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
2-3    eggs, beaten with a splash of water
2    cups of panko breadcrumbs, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
2     tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
Vegetable oil for frying
2     cups of mixed greens and herbs
Juice of half a lemon
3     tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic reduction (sold in the vinegar aisle)

Slice the tomatoes into quarter-inch-thick rounds. Create a breading station. Put the seasoned flour in one bowl, the beaten eggs with the splash of water in another. Place the breadcrumbs in the third and toss them with the parsley.

Add the oil to a large frying pan until the oil is about half an inch deep. Heat the oil. While it’s heating, dip the tomato rounds first in flour then in the egg mixture and finally in the breadcrumbs. Set aside until the oil is ready. (You can prepare ahead of time and refrigerate under plastic wrap until needed.)

Fry the rounds until they’re golden brown on both sides. Remove.

In a separate bowl, dress the greens with the lemon juice and olive oil. Salt and pepper the greens to taste.


To assemble:
Spread the cheddar mixture on each tomato round and fan them across a plate. Place some mixed greens on the plate. Drizzle the pesto over the tomatoes. Finish with a drizzle of balsamic reduction.


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