“To Fry Tomatoes”: Sarah Rutledge Mixes Up a Few New World Foods

Sarah Rutledge’s cookbook, The Carolina Housewife, surprised me the other day.

Try as I might, I could only find one recipe for pork in the whole book! “Ham Toast,” on page 75. I kid you not.

“Meat” seems to be beef or veal. That’s it.

Ms. Rutledge’s book did include a number of vegetable recipes, ten recipes for tomatoes. In The Virginia Housewife, Mary Randolph gave seventeen recipes.

One of Ms. Rutledge’s recipes seems very modern.

“To Fry Tomatoes”

It goes like this:

Peel a dozen ripe tomatoes, and fry them in a little fresh butter, together with two or three sliced green peppers ; sprinkle on them a little salt ; then add and onion or two sliced, and let the whole cook thoroughly.

This is the Spanish method of preparing them.

Since I expected there’d only be two people at table when I served the tomatoes, the following recipe reflects that.

4 large tomatoes, peeled and cut into wedges

3 T. unsalted butter

1/2 large green pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips, seeds and veins removed

1/2 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch strips

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Chopped parsley (optional)

To peel the tomatoes, heat a large pot of water to boiling, cut a small “X” on the end of each tomato (not the stem end). Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water and let cook until the edges of the cut around the “X” begin pulling away from each other, about 2 minutes. Remove from the water and peel. Cut into wedges and set aside. Heat the butter in a large cast-iron skillet, or other heavy-bottom skillet. Toss in the peppers and onions and cook until charred around the edges. Then add the tomatoes, cook until slightly charred. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. serve immediately. (You could use a few strips of hot peppers if so desired.)

What I like about this recipe, and some of the recipes in The Virginia Housewife, is that the authors acknowledge the Spanish influence on their cooking. After all, Spain’s presence in Florida and into Georgia and the Carolinas needs to be recalled more than it is.

Photo credit: C. Bertelsen