Bright and green

The fried green tomato sounds vile. Not so much the fried. Or the tomato. It's the green that stumps me. Who wants to chomp on a tomato that's green?

Green suits lettuce. Also the pea, broccoli, fava, asparagus and avocado. These vegetable-patch compatriots work all summer to achieve green. Their goal is green.

Not the tomato. The tomato strives for red. Maybe yellow or orange or some fashion-forward stripe. But not green. Green, in the tomato, implies underachievement.

Once green could get the tomato sent to the guidance office, written up for bad attitude, lectured on lack of effort.

But times change, especially in the fall, when frost threatens to dispatch the tomato of any persuasion left hanging on the vine. These days counselors speak of multiple intelligences — not just keen math skills, but empathy, intuition and — I would hope — style.

Given a chance, the green tomato steps up. The fruit has a firm bite and something of the wild, spicy flavor that wafts from the plant's prickly looking stems.

It's starchy out of hand, but its thick flesh helps it hold up under heat. When soothed in a milk bath, spiked with cayenne, crumb-coated and pan-fried, the green tomato comes back with snappy, refreshing crunch.

Which isn't better than the gushingly ripe tomato. It's simply that delicious quality we've all learned to value: different.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune special contributor.

Fried green tomatoes

Green tomatoes




Egg, lightly beaten

Panko or other fine white breadcrumbs

Cayenne pepper

Vegetable oil

1 Prep: Slice tomatoes into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Season with salt.

2 Dip: Set milk, flour, egg and panko out on separate plates. Season flour with a little salt and panko with a pinch of cayenne. Dip each tomato first in milk, then flour, egg and finally panko.

3 Fry: Coat a heavy skillet with oil. Heat over medium-high heat. Fry tomatoes golden, 2-3 minutes per side. Enjoy with aioli or tucked into a rockin' BLT.

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