When it comes to warm-weather produce, much is made of the importance of finding just-ripe fruits and vegetables for their natural sweetness and juicy insides. But that all changes when the spotlight is shined on one particular summer classic: fried green tomatoes. This Southern staple is best when made with firm, not-yet-ripe tomatoes — which are most often green — because they’re not packed with liquid yet. Traditional tomato sauce relies on ripe red tomatoes because they burst open with juices when cooked, but it’s those same juices that would render red tomatoes limp and the crumb coating soggy if they were fried.
As you peruse your gardens this summer or shop at farm stands and the supermarket, reach for green tomatoes and put them to work in the Neelys’ can-do recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes (pictured above). Ready to eat in only 30 minutes, this simple-to-make dish features slices of green tomato dunked in garlic powder-laced flour, a batter of milk and eggs, and finally panko with a pinch of cayenne for subtle heat. Fry them until they’re golden brown and crispy on the outside and serve a creamy, tangy buttermilk sauce alongside for deliciously easy dipping.