~ Batter-Dipped & Deep-Fried Campari Tomatoes ~
Tossing and turning -- I couldn't sleep at all last night. A lot of "stuff" rattles around in my brain on a daily basis. Problem is, if I don't let go of "it" before I turn in for the night, I'd be better off not turning in, because: all that "stuff" seems worse -- magnified -- lying in bed in the dark. Last night was one such night, and, in the midst of a host of keep-me-up-all-night issues, wondering if I could deep-fry our homegrown* (read about this below) Campari tomatoes entered into the mix.
The answer is heck yea: deep-fried Campari's are great!
A bit about Campari tomatoes: Known as "the tomato lovers tomato" (both the name and slogan are trademarked), they are known for their juiciness, tart and sweet taste without being acidic, and, firm user-friendly texture. They are deep red in color, round and smallish in size (a little bigger than a golf ball and much smaller than a tennis ball), and, more often than not, sold TOV (tomato on vine). They've become very popular, especially with tomato lovers like me, because they are available all year long. Unlike ALL other store-bought tomatoes, they pack all of the flavor of locally grown and backyard garden tomatoes at the height of the Summer season.
*I love Campari tomatoes, and, at some point during the past Winter I asked my husband Joe if it was possible for him to grown some. He had no luck on an internet and catalog search to buy seeds -- our guess is their trademark prevents the sale of Campari seeds and plants. So, my man with two green-thumbs dried seeds from a few store-bought Campari's and planted them in little egg cartons in our garage. They ALL sprouted, and, right now as I type, we've got 24 plants that are producing about 6-8 pints of ripe tomatoes a day.
Either they are generally easy to grow or Joe's garden and our Central PA climate is the perfect habitat for them.
I'll be taking some to my mom and dad's house this week, have been sharing them with my tomato-loving neighbors (Dick and Carol), and, yes, now, staying awake nights trying to think of ways not to waste one single, solitary one of them.
Deep-fried ripe red or even green Campari tomatoes are diVINE:
When choosing red tomatoes for deep-frying, go with that-day-ripe to slightly-under-ripe, not over-ripe ones (save those past their prime for sauce making). For lovers of fried green tomatoes, you'll be happy to know they can be batter-dipped and deep-fried too. Allow me to add my two cents though: In my opinion the best fried green tomatoes (even the traditional buttermilk, cornmeal and skillet fried ones) are made with green tomatoes that are just at the beginning stages of turning red. When it comes to green Campari tomatoes, they will be slightly smaller than the red ones, but, that won't affect the deep-frying time at all (1/2-2 minutes). In the case of both, to insure this even cooking time, choose tomatoes that are 1"-1 1/4" in size.
Setting up the deep-frying assembly line (left to right):
One medium bowl containing 3 cups pancake mix whisked with 2 1/2 cups beer or buttermilk (Note: Buttermilk is classic Southern, but both buttermilk and beer add a tangy flavor, and, because I enjoy drinking beer more than buttermilk, that is my choice.)
One 8" x 8" x 2" dish containing 2 cups panko breadcrumbs.
Deep-fryer w/peanut oil heated to 360 degrees according to manufacturer's specifications.
5-6 dozen 1"-1 1/4" Campari tomatoes, red or green or a combination of both
Misc: 3-minute timer, Asian spider, cooling rack, paper towels, sea salt grinder.
~ Step 1. When everything is measured and in place, whisk together the pancake mix and beer. Set aside for about 5 minutes before starting the frying process. This will give the batter time to thicken to a drizzly consistency. If at any point during the frying process (even at the outset) if the batter seems or gets too thick, whisk in a little more beer (or some water) to maintain a drizzly consistency.
~Step 2. Rinse and pat the tomatoes completely dry. Place them in the first dish of dry pancake batter. Using a large spoon, toss them around to give them a light, dry, floury coating. Place a toothpick about 1/4" into the stem end of each tomato and dip it in the batter, then dredge it in the panko breadcrumbs. Note: When coating the batter-dipped tomato in the panko, take the time to pat and press the crumbs evenly onto the tomato. After I quickly get some crumbs lightly coated on the surface, I "cup" a palmful of panko in one hand, and, holding the skewered tomato in the other, work the tomato around in my palm-of-crumbs to press them firmly on.
Immediately after coating, (do not wait until you have 1 or 2 more coated), drop the tomato into the hot oil of the deep fryer by removing the toothpick, and coat the next tomato. Fry the tomatoes, in batches of 2-3 at a time until lightly golden, about 1 1/2-2 minutes.
~ Step 3. Using an Asian spider or a large slotted spoon, transfer deep-fried tomatoes to a wire cooling rack that has been placed atop a few layers of paper towels. Immediately, grind some sea salt over their tops. Repeat this process until all tomatoes are deep-fried. Note: I made half a batch today, 2 1/2 dozen. This recipe yields enough dry dredge, batter and panko to fry 5-6 dozen.
I prefer red to green -- that choice is yours -- green are great too:
Special Equipment List: 2 shallow 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes or 9" pie dishes; medium-large bowl; whisk; toothpick(s): deep-fryer; 3-minute egg timer; Asian spider or large slotted spoon; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; paper towels; cooling rack
Cook's Note: These tomatoes are a great appetizer or snack but they need a dipping sauce. They lend themselves best to creamy, herby concoctions, and I enjoy them the most with my recipe for ~ Mel's "Happy Valley" Ranch-Style Salad Dressing ~ which you can find in Categories 1, 2, 8, 10 17, 19 or 20.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)