I tried to grow cherry tomatoes again this year. The plants started out promising, bursting with healthy foliage and small green tomatoes just a few weeks after I planted them. But then the chipmunks came and every morning I would come outside to find half-eaten baby tomatoes littered on the ground. I cried a little each time it happened. Then the very hot and very dry weather hit and we couldn’t keep up with the watering. My plants got dry and brown and the chipmunks started to get more picky about eating only the nearly ripe tomatoes.
Fast forward to mid-September. The poor little green tomatoes still on the vines were not getting any bigger or any riper in the cool weather. Since I love fried green tomatoes and I hate watching produce go to waste, I started the ponder the idea of frying my small green cherry tomatoes. This morning I picked my plants clean and went for it. I decided to use panko crumbs to add extra crunch. Since the cherry tomatoes are so small, there isn’t the crust-to-tomato ratio of the larger slices so I figured extra crisp would only help. I also opted for flour instead of the more traditional cornmeal. I don’t always like the grittiness of cornmeal but you could certainly swap the two if you prefer. Finally, I double dipped the tomatoes (milk-flour mixture-milk-flour mixture) in hopes of getting the crust to stick as much as possible. Next time, I will add a little bit of rest time after the breading so the crust can really set. I am please to report that these little cherries were every bit as delicious as a traditional fried green tomato with the added bonus of being totally snackable. Even better, none of my tomatoes were wasted.
Fried Green Tomato Bites
1 cup green (unripe) cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup whole milk or buttermilk
Wash and dry your tomatoes. Set a medium, deep sauté pan over medium-high heat. Fill with a neutral cooking oil (safflower or peanut are good choices) to about 1/8″ deep.
While the oil is heating, mix flour, bread crumbs, spices, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Pour milk into a separate small bowl. Dip the tomatoes, a small handful at a time, in the milk. Scoop out, let drain for a second, and toss them in the flour mixture until well coated. Put the tomatoes back into the milk for a minute, and then toss in the flour a second time. Continue until all tomatoes have been double dipped. Let them rest for a few minutes before cooking.
Once the oil is hot (a few drops of water should dance and sizzle when added to the pan), add the tomatoes, in batches if needed so you don’t crowd the pan. Let them cook until golden on the first side, 30-60 seconds. Turn the tomatoes until they are golden on all sides. Remove to a plate covered with a paper towel to drain and sprinkle with a little more kosher salt and pepper.
Enjoy while still hot. Conceviablely you could serve 2 with appetizer-sized portions but I don’t think you’ll want to share.