Carb Solution: Fried Green Tomatillos
Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as being overweight or obese. Another 29 million of us have Diabetes, many as a direct result of being overweight. Then there are the 23.9 million overweight children who are dutifully following the example of their XXL adult role models. Diabetes and these extra pounds cost this country billions annually in both medical and economic resources, not to mention the effect these weight-related maladies have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness. However, both diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our own weight. One easy way to start taking that control is to make decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL).
Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the bloodstream. The Glycemic Index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based on how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate these calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for people with diabetes who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating low glycemic scores. They also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts has been proven to actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.
A QUICKIE GLYCEMIC PRIMER
• The glycemic index of a food compares its effect on blood sugar level to that of pure glucose, which has a score of 100. White breads, which are made of processed white flour, are at the top of this scale, scoring a “perfect” 100 on the glycemic index. For perspective, a score of 55 or below denotes a low-glycemic-index food; 70 or above is considered very high. Serving size is not a consideration in arriving at a food’s Glycemic Index number.
• The glycemic load, on the other hand, focuses on how many digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, which is defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while ten or less is low. </i>
In honor of this month’s Cinco de Mayo celebrations, here’s a low-carb Latin twist on a dish that is considered (incorrectly) a Southern classic; Fried Green Tomatillos! Actually, the real fried green tomatoes can be traced to the cuisine of Jewish immigrants living in the Midwest in the late 1800s. The reputation of the Deep South’s love for everything deep-fried is probably how the assumption of the dish’s origins started, and the 1991 movie of the same name set in Alabama only helped reinforce the notion. No matter, it’s the white flour, cornmeal and bread crumbs that make this dish off-limits for the carb counter.
However, before replacing those high carb components, this month’s aforementioned Cinco celebrations also allow for an ingredient upgrade. That is, both the tomato and the tomatillo are fruits (distant cousins). All fruits are meant to be consumed when ripe, right? With a few varietal exceptions, the tomato is considered ripe when it turns from green to bright red. The tomatillo, on the other hand, is ripe when green. Personally, I prefer to eat ripe fruit. Hence, fried GREEN tomatillos!
Tomatillos are a member of the nightshade family of plants, including tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, and peppers. It is one of the oldest plant species on the planet – prehistoric even. Researchers have dated a tomatillo plant fossil in Patagonia to 52 million years ago, which predates humans. Those foodie Aztecs, always tinkering around over the campfire, were the first to cultivate the plant as a food source; the name tomatillo is derived from the Aztec word tomatl meaning small tomato, though the two fruits are only distantly related botanically.
Uncooked, tomatillos will make for a light and tangy salsa; roasted, tomatillos have a sweeter, more complex set of flavors while still retaining an acidic quality though less stringent. It’s that pleasant acidity that adds a taste twist to any dish. Salsa verde, or green salsa, is probably the most common use of the tomatillo today. Salsa verde is made by combining cooked tomatillos, spices, and chile pepper in a blender or food processor. BTW, since the fruit is a good source of vitamins A, C, K and B3, it is best to either roast, fry or steam tomatillos as boiling will lose a good amount of these water-soluble vitamins.
While this recipe is designed to lose the high carb components of the original dish, crispy breading is still the goal – just healthier. The key to that crispiness is the 2:1 ratio of parmesan cheese to almond flour. The cheese not only lowers the carb count; once fried, it turns a crunchy golden brown! For this dish, choose large tomatillos that will yield about three good-sized slices each. Then set up a three-station assembly line: seasoned tomatillos, cheese-flour mix and an egg-milk wash. Dredging the tomatillo slices first in the flour helps the egg wash adhere to the surface of each slice. A little bit of oil in the egg wash will help thin the liquid coating.
A crunchy “breading” requires a tangy dip to match. So many options, so few tomatillos! Again, we let the Cinco de Mayo celebration give culinary direction with a mayo-sour cream mixture laced with Melissa’s flavorful Hatch Pepper Seasoning featuring both green and red peppers. Green Hatch are picked when the peppers are still young, whereas red hatch have been left in the field longer and harvested when fully ripe. Combined, the two meld into a uniquely fresh and spicy blend with just a hint of smokiness. All in all, a delicious combination. It deserves a high Rotten Tomatoes rating (ha, excuse the pun!).
Fried Green Tomatillos
For the Creamy Hatch Dip:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon Hatch Pepper Seasoning
For the tomatillos:
8 tomatillos, husks removed, sliced ¼-inch thick
1 tablespoon Red or Green Hatch Chile Powder Shaker
1/2 cup almond flour
1 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon canola oil
Oil for frying
Make the Creamy Hatch Dip by whisking all ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Place the tomatillo slices in a plastic container with a few drops of oil and the Hatch Chile Powder. Seal and shake to coat generously.
Combine ½ cup of flour with 1 cup of parmesan cheese.
Set up an assembly line: seasoned tomatillo slices, flour-parmesan mix, and lastly, a small bowl of egg, milk, and oil. Dredge a tomatillo slice in the flour, then dip it in the egg mixture. Repeat until all tomatillos are coated.
Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet. Cook in batches, then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
Sprinkle with salt to taste. Serve immediately with the Creamy Hatch Dip.