I have a confession - I never knew salsa verde was made from tomatillos! Of course, while shoving chips in my mouth at my favorite Mexican restaurant I never gave it much thought, but now it makes so much sense! I actually never knew much about tomatillos in general and thought they were just green tomatoes until now. But don't be fooled- these guys don't taste like tomatoes at all! They are brighter, more acidic, tarter and sweeter than tomatoes. They almost have a citrusy flavor like a lemon! (Again, who knew!?) Tomatillos have been a popular staple of Mexican cuisine since the Aztecs domesticated them in 800 B.C (whoa!), but now can be found at most supermarkets around the U.S. Now's a great time to pick them up since they are in season starting in the summer until the early fall.
The tomatillo is surrounded by a husk and these papery outfits are a good indication of freshness when shopping at the market. Look for smaller tomatillos (in this instance bigger is not better) that are firm with green to brownish-green husks that are tight fitting and more or less intact. The husks can be split, but not overly handled or ripped off. You can store them on the counter for a few days or in the refrigerator in a paper bag for up to 3 weeks. Keep the husks on until you are ready to use them. When preparing them, remove the husks and wash the fruit under water to remove the sticky residue.
Salsa Verde or Tomatillo Salsa
(adapted from Bon Appetit)
I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm pretty lazy around the kitchen, so when I can avoid any extra steps like blending, I do it. Turns out the hardest part of this recipe, that calls for a puree, was rinsing off my dusty, never used food processor. What I didn't realize is when making something like this, you may have to use an appliance, but you get to skip all exact slicing and dicing - all you do is roughly chop everything and throw it in, hit a button and you have a gourmet salsa experience, easy peasy.
- 1 pound tomatillos, husked, rinsed, quartered
- ½ medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 serrano chile, seeds removed depending on your heat desires, coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems
- Juice of half a lime
- Kosher salt
Simply throw all the roughly chopped ingredients into food processor and blend, adding water as needed, until smooth. Season with salt.
Serve with chips and enjoy! Save a little to serve with your eggs the next morning - it's delicious!
(Side note: Either wear gloves or a plastic bag while handing the serrano chile. Or use this neat trick - rub olive oil on your hands before chopping! Not enough that you are too greasy to handle any food, but the olive oil will keep the capsaicin-rich oils of the pepper (the stuff that causes the pain) off your hands. I did neither and suffered from burning hands all night, which led to burning eyes when I removed my contacts and wearing socks as gloves to bed in case I needed to pick up my baby in the middle of the night. It was not a pretty scene!)
(all photos, jamie grill photography)