Tuesday, 15 November 2011

SmartCooks Discovers Tomatillos and makes a Salsa Verde

November 2011

SmartCooks here. 

So, tomatillos, pronounced ['toh-MAH-tee-YO'].  I've gone my entire life noticing them in the stores and at the farmers' markets but never buying or trying to cook with them.  Have I missed out on a culinary delight! Mine looked exactly like the ones in the pictures below (courtesy of a couple of sites like Pinch My Salt and Gourmet Sleuth ). 

About eight of them arrived in my last Community Supported Agriculture Basket from Bryson's Farms. I wondered at first if they were a Christmas tree ornament but no ;) after I searched sites to find out what they are and what you do with them. (By the way, click here for a nice review of Bryson's Farms that has just appeared in the 'Food Buzz' column of Ottawa Magazine.

Brief History of Tomatillos 

According to my research, a tomatillo is a relative of the tomato, but with a very different taste.  The fruit provides the tart flavor found in Mexican green sauces. In Mexico the fruit is called tomates verdes, tomates de cascara as well as fresadillas.  The fruits average about 1 -2" wide and have a papery outer skin. The tomatillo is used when it is still green.

The Aztecs found the tomatillo around 800 BC and 'tomatillo' is 'round and plump'.  When Europeans arrived, there was much confusion between a 'Tomato' and a 'Tomatillo'.  The 'tomato' proved to be immensely popular with Europeans and was taken to Italy where it grew well in the Mediterranean climate.  The 'tomatillo', however, never gained in popularity with Europeans. In recent years, it is slowly being rediscovered. 

Salsa Verde/Green Salsa

The best recipe for using Tomatillos is to make a Salsa verde.  There are numerous versions of the recipes out there, and all seem to suggest either boiling them or roasting them.  I chose to boil them and went with a version of the recipe below, although apparently roasting them delivers more flavour. 

There are endless variations to this recipe, e.g., hotter by adding more chiles, or adding red or green tomatoes as well as tomatillos. Some people leave out the onion.  It all depends on taste. I loved the one I made below and used with chicken, pork chops and on its own with tortilla chips.  It was YUMMM! Hoping my CSA basket gives me more this week. 


1 1/2 lb tomatillos
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 T fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 Jalapeño peppers OR 2 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped
Salt to taste


Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse.

If roasting, cut the tomatillos in half and place cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Put under broiler 5-7 minutes to lightly blacken the skin.  If boiling, place tomatillos in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon.

Place tomatillos, lime juice, onions, cilantro, chili peppers, and sugar in a food processor (or blender) and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. Season to taste with salt. Cool in refrigerator.


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