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Originally published Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 7:03 PM

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Ask the Splendid Table

Making the most of green tomatoes

Lynne Rossetto Kasper offers this Rustic Italian Green-Tomato Jam as one way of using green tomatoes. She also offers other suggestions for making green tomatoes the star of the culinary show.

Syndicated columnist

Dear Lynne: My tomatoes are so late, they're not going to ripen on the vine. So how do you ripen green tomatoes? How do you make green-tomato jam? Is there some rule for using green tomatoes instead of ripe ones?

— Lola in Duluth

Dear Lola: If red tomatoes didn't exist, green tomatoes would get more respect. With their crunch and piquant kick, they hold their own in a lot of dishes.

The one thing you do not do is cook a green tomato for a short time. Use the fruit raw, or cook it down, but do nothing in between or you'll unleash its worst characteristics, as in slippery textures (think okra) and more flatness than flavor.

Anything you can do with a tart apple, you can do with a green tomato. Here are some thoughts:

Bake a green-tomato pie. Substitute green tomatoes for half or all of the required apples. Green-tomato pie starred in the mid-1800s, after the tomato began taking hold in the United States.

Dice green tomatoes into green salads. (French and Italian cooks actually hunt down crunchy tomatoes for this purpose.)

Make a green-tomato pasta. It's ridiculously easy: Rub a serving bowl with fresh garlic. Add hot, cooked and drained pasta, tossing it with tomato chunks, good-tasting ricotta, a little pasta water, grated lemon rind, a lot of black pepper and some Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Ripen green tomatoes in an open basket where air can circulate around them. Cover them lightly with a paper towel or newspaper and put the basket in a cool, shady place.

This green-tomato jam is Italian. In Italy, farmers make the preserve to use on bread, in tarts, spooned over simple cakes and ice cream or just eaten on its own.

Because of its low sugar content, this must be refrigerated. It will keep 2 weeks in the refrigerator and freeze up to 6 months.

Let the tomatoes and sugar stand in the refrigerator for 23 hours before cooking, allowing the sugar to draw out juices so the tomatoes stay crisper during cooking and their syrup becomes more flavorful. Actual simmering takes 40 minutes.

Ensure bright contrasts of tart-sweet fruit and spice by cooking the jam just until it reaches 210 degrees on a candy thermometer (or until it won't run when spooned onto a chilled plate). Beyond this, flavors flatten.

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Using

Green-Tomato Jam

Buy or bake shortcake or extra-rich biscuits. Split cake/biscuits in half. Slather the jam over the bottom half and top with whipped cream. Put the top of the cake/biscuit in place, spread on jam and heap on the whipped cream.

Have a partially baked tart crust. Spread the jam over the bottom; pour in a cheesecake batter to cover. Bake and serve at room temperature.

Baste slow-grilling ribs with the jam that you've mixed with vinegar, Tabasco and garlic.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper hosts "The Splendid Table," American Public Media's weekly national show. The program airs Sundays at 2 p.m. on KUOW 94.9 FM.

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