When summer hits, I’m on the lookout for green tomatoes. No, not the heirloom, fancy ones that are green in their ripe state. I’m talking rock hard, unripe tomatoes. They’re firm, meaty and perfect for pickling because they’ll retain a little crunch. I eat pickles too fast to do the canning jars and sterilization. Instead, I do a flash pickle and keep a bunch in the fridge to slide into banh mi sandwiches and to also serve as a side pickle. This is one of my favorite summertime pickles.
I developed this recipe originally for my cookbook, The Banh Mi Handbook. It was a variation for a snow pea pickle. I loved the lemongrass, slight garlicky and spicy chile heat notes so much that in summer when snow peas were not at their peak, I was looking to apply the same flavors.
One day on a walk around our neighborhood, I spied some unripe tomatoes in a neighbor’s yard. I walked by those tomato plants regularly and the person didn’t ever harvest any fruit. Since green tomatoes are not easy to come by on the West Coast (they’re not sold in the supermarket as I’ve seen in some other parts of the country!), I stole some from that neighbor’s house to experiment with.