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And now for a real country food favorite- but  I make it in the city too.  You’ve heard of Fried Green Tomatoes-  “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe,” a novel by Fannie Flagg, appeared 1987.  It was so popular it was made into a movie simply called Fried Green Tomatoes, starring Jessica Tandy.  You can read the novel (which I haven’t) or see the movie (which I recommend highly); but make this dish from classic American cookery regardless.  There’s nothing easier, so don’t be intimidated if you’ve never tried to make it before.  I was in my 40’s the first time I made it, because no one in my family had made it when we were growing up.  It doesn’t matter if you call them to-MAY-toes or to-MAH-toes.  Let’s call the whole thing on.

Get you some cornmeal and a little cajun spice, if you have it.  You could season a generous 1/2 cup of blue, yellow or white cornmeal with 1 tsp of cajun seasoning, Old Bay or just a little salt and pepper to taste.  It would be hard to mess up the dredge- spread it out on a plate or a pie pan, and then beat your egg in a separate bowl, maybe with a splash of tabasco.  Heat 1/4 to 1/2 cup of vegetable oil in a heavy 9″ skillet over medium-high heat until it is shimmering-hot, and season it with a spoonful of bacon fat if that sounds good to you.  (Or just make it all bacon drippings if that sounds even better to you, or if you want to make this very regionally authentic.)

Cut up one (or more) gorgeous, firm green tomato into about 1/2″ slices – dip in the egg and then dredge in the seasoned cornmeal.  Carefully allow the dipped and dredged tomato slices to repose in the hot fat & turn over only after they have become irresistibly brown- this is probably no longer than a minute or 2.  Repeat for as many slices of green tomato as you have.  Don’t deep fry these.

These require no other kind of condiment- fried green tomatoes are like bananas- they are a perfect food.

If you click on any of these photos, they will appear larger.

 

What a movie!  It’s a little strange writing about a movie about a food blog (among other things) in this food blog.   “Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.” (Wilde).   But IF you get a chance, go see this flick- four of us went together to look at it on Friday.  Meryl Streep nails the character of Julia Child (and the woman who incidentally portrayed her sister, well, they were phenomenal together)- the whole audience went ape over this movie.   Everyone in that packed cinema was happily yelling and cheering for almost 2 hours.  I’d see it again.  Stanley Tucci was good too.

I just re-deranged –as my friend Hortensia likes to say- -my kitchen cupboards.  Not the whole kitchen- I don’t want to get too carried away.  But I realized things were slowly careening toward a state of entropy for a couple of months and  becoming unmanageable.  And it was time to make granola, so it I had to find out how and where everything had migrated inside my cupboards while I wasn’t paying attention.

I discovered a jar of Organic Black Tahini and a packet of Junket (it’s a Scandinavian rennet product that you can use to make something like Panna Cotta, or a Trembleque (different, and made with cocunut milk I think).  Also I found my Mexican dried, powdered shrimp in one of 4 or 5 unmarked recycled, plastic yogurt containers.  Sometimes it’s like Christmas when I open one of these containers and it has Chinese Mu Er (Tree Ear), or semolina flour, or dried shrimp.

So today I make granola because I’m running out.  I usually make a huge batch about once a month, and I have done that fairly consistently for about 20 years.  I used to make a version from ‘Bridgehampton Works and Days‘ while I was still in my teens.  Then after I entered the restaurant business several years later, where we made fresh granola once or twice a week.  The New Riverside Cafe granola had a cult-following; our business logo was a cartoon of a plump flying purple eggplant with little white angel wings, and our official business motto was ‘NO MEAT!  NO BOSSES!’  I always did say that it was a slightly anarchical artists colony disguised as a vegetarian restaurant.

Actually I think the unofficial name of the business was ‘The New Riverside Cafe:  Biomagnetic Center of the Universe’.  Whenever we had anti-war demonstrations in town (which was FREQUENT in the late 1980s- Think:  Reagan/Iran-Contra) our little cafe storefront became standing room only, as energetic peaceniks flooded our shop for organic coffee and restorative rice and beans, or tofu, veg and brown rice.  It was the most financially successful, collectively owned business in the United States at that time (we cleared something like a $1M a year, if you can believe it).  Our neighboring counter-culture vegetarian sister-restuarant (The Seward Cafe) made t-shirts with the neo-post-constructionist image of a piece of an herioc spear of broccoli with the legend “EAT BROCCOLI!” -after George Bush the elder announced that he was now an adult and the President, so he didn’t have to eat broccoli if he didn’t want to.  So eating broccoli became a fashion statement of war resistance for a little while in certain enclaves.

When I started regularly making granola at home I combined these two recipes to my own use.  You to never make it the same way twice if you don’t want to.  I have converted this to standard recipe measurements (rather than handfuls) – but this is more or less how I make it.  This will make enough to feed you and your crew, and you will still have enough to give a couple of containers away- people love homemade granola.  It’s also gluten free (although some strict gluten free diets prohibit even oatmeal – in which case use rolled Rye Flakes)

equipment:

  • big mixing bowl
  • a couple of good sized measuring cups – one for wet, one for dry ingredients
  • baking sheet(s)- I always use a jelly roll pan- it has deep sides that contain everything
  • measuring spoons, rubber spatula, big metal spatula

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

dry ingredients:

  • 5-6 cups rolled oats (I don’t usually use Quick-type oats, but they will work)
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup shredded dry coconut (or big flaked coconut- makes an interesting texture)
  • 1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 Tbsp of any whole grain flour(s) – I usually use 2 handfuls of buckwheat flour (it’s rich in rutin, which resembles a water soluble B vitamin- and its deep taproot gets lots of iron up from the soil subsurface); but sometimes I use wild rice flour (hard to find, unless you’re in Minnesota, probably- sorry); or rye-, or corn flour.  You could use wheat germ- that would be good – whole bran would be fine as well.
  • 1/2 cup of cornmeal
  • a teaspoon of cinnamon

Start with about 5-6 cups of oats, add coconut, cornmeal, buckwheat flour, pumpkin seeds and cinnamon.  You can mingle these dry ingredients together a little, but don’t worry about it too much.

wet ingredients:

in a measuring cup mix:

  • 1/2 to 3/4  cup vegetable oil (you could probably use half that amount if you have diet that requires low-fat)
  • a teaspoon of vanilla extract-

mix together and pour over the dry ingredients and toss together till everything is evenly coated.  If you use the measuring cup that had the oil in it, the wet ingredients won’t stick to the measuring cup:

  • scant 1/4 cup honey
  • scant 1/4 cup dark or blackstrap molasses (the latter is packed with iron, but not very sweet)
  • scant 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • scant 1/4 cup brown sugar

Agave (cactus) syrup is good also; you can also use birch-tree syrup (widely available in Alaska); sorghum syrup (the grain sorghum was introduced to North America by Africans in the slave trade); probably pomegranate molasses would work, as would date syrup (popular in Iraq, on bread with cream for breakfast).  You can actually use whatever combination of sweeteners in any proportion you want.  As long as you use between 1/2 cup and a cup of any combination of sweetener, the recipe is fairly fool-proof.

Start mixing the wet and dry ingredients.  It will be severely messy- use a spoon, use your hands, use a spatula- Whatever it takes, just get everything mixed together into a big sticky mass and turn out onto a greased baking sheet.  If you have a 13″ x 18″ jelly roll pan, the raw granola will be close to an inch deep.

I usually bake it at about 325-350F for upwards of 30-45 minutes, until it dries out a little and becomes fragrant.  If I have more time on my hands I might bake it for close to an hour at 300F.  Turn it carefully and thoroughly a few times and it will bake to a golden or dark brown (depending on how much honey or molasses you use).  About halfway through the baking I add  about 1 cup or more of pecans, walnuts or other nuts, very roughly chopped.  I’ve used hickory nuts, and those are very good, but hard to find.  And be careful with anything you bake with honey as an ingredient, it browns beautifully, but also can burn easily.

Take the granola off the baking sheet – I usually put it on a couple of big plates or platters to cool.  While it is cooling I sprinkle on about 2 Tbsp Gomasio (a Japanese condiment made with sea salt and roasted sesame seeds ground together (we used to make that every week at the restaurant too).  Then I add 2 big handfuls of roasted, salted sunflower seeds.  These 2 ingredients are the only salt I have ever used in the recipe, but I never skip them, because they are rich in flavor and very rich in nutrients- did you know Sesame Seeds are one of the few sources of Vitamin T? Portable, durable energy-imbuing food is the whole purpose of granola.  I’ve seen an interesting electric machine in Germany that is used to crush and soak whole-grains for Muesli, which is very popular in Europe, and from the same branch of the food-family tree as Granola.

The final ingredient is dried fruit- I use anything I have in my cupboard- dried apples, berries, pineapple, mango, apricots, bananas, peaches, cherries, raisins, golden raisins, currants (those are still truly raisins in this country, just not fully mature).  For today, I’m going to use 5 kinds of berries, because in our Oral History, Yupik people have a story that’s usually called The Five Berry Sisters, and it reminds us that the berries- where we have lived for the past 10,000 years or so- used to be human beings, just like us.  So sometimes you would see eskimo people talking to the berries as we picked them, since the berries are able to understand human speech, and we still have a relationship with them.  The berry sisters officially are: blueberry, strawberry, cranberry, salmon-berry and thimble-berry.  I have to substitute the latter two indigenous berries with dried raspberries and cherries today.

Use about 1-2 cups of diced dried fruit in any combination.  Mix the whole thing well, and when you’re sure it’s utterly cool place it in your storage containers, eat it, give it away.