In a Tomatillo State of Mind

Local tomatillos showed off their pretty chartreuse-y skins at my neighborhood farm market last weekend, which means only one thing at Casa Appetite: salsa verde.

Tomatillos waiting to be sauced. (Kim O'Donnel)

If you've never had the pleasure, now's the time. As a member of the nightshade family (eggplants, tomatoes, peppers), tomatillos show up when it's nice and warm. Even though it kinda looks like a tomato and it's got tomato as part of its name, the tomatillo is not a tomato, nor is it a green tomato waiting to turn red. Think of it as a distant cousin with a sweet-tart disposition.

Super-low in calories (1/2 cup is just 20 calories), the tomatillo is also a good source of potassium and Vitamin C. See for yourself what a great sauce she makes, proving her mettle in all kinds of flavor scenarios -- with grilled mains, rice and beans, scrambled eggs and of course, as part of a chip-n-dip combo. What I also like is that you can play with seasonings, making it as spicy or limey as you wish. Below, the results when I left Mister MA to his own devices and the food processor.

Raw Tomatillo Sauce

4 tomatillos, husks removed and cut in half
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled
Juice of 1 lime
Heat of chilies -- I used ¼ habanero, but use what you like
1 scallion, root removed, chopped
Small handful chopped cilantro
Salt to taste
Optional add-ons:
1 avocado, for extra creaminess
A few tablespoons of sour cream or plain yogurt to mellow out the heat from the chilies

Place tomatillos, garlic, lime, chilies, scallion and cilantro in bowl of a food processor. Puree until well blended. Taste for salt and add accordingly. If using dairy to mellow out heat, add gradually and taste along the way. The same rule of thumb applies to the avocado -- if you add the entire fruit, the resulting sauce may be very thick.

Scoop out of the bowl and serve with tortilla chips, as a sauce for grilled chicken, steak or fish, with beans and rice, scrambled eggs, on top of chopped cabbage.

Makes about 1 ½ cups sauce.

By Kim ODonnel |  July 10, 2008; 7:00 AM ET Getting Fresh , Seasonal Produce
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Love tomatillos and making my own sauce with them--especially now that I found a Mexican market where they're only $0.69/pound, instead of $1.99 at Safeway if I'm lucky.

Posted by: kerryfromthedairy | July 10, 2008 7:47 AM

I LOVE tomatillo salsa- party favorite every time! I use 8 tolmatillos, 3 shallots, 2 cloves of garlic, about half a bunch of cilantro, a can of chopped green chilies (fresh is good too!), a jalapeno, salt to taste, whirl it up in the FP. It's perfect every time! I never thought of adding an avocado- may have to try that!

Posted by: LB | July 10, 2008 8:12 AM

I like a tomatillo salsa that has been roasted. I put tomatillos, onions, and jalapeños to broil, pull them out when they got hot. After they've cooled a bit, proceed with making the salsa in the food processor. I usually use garlic, cilantro, and lime, along with a tiny bit of pureed chipotles in adobo for extra heat.


Posted by: salsa lover | July 10, 2008 9:33 AM

I love salsa verde on grilled cheese. I admit I up the spice level by adding 4-5 habanero (seeds included) to 8-10 tomatillos. Red onions are also nice instead of scallions. Otherwise, my recipe is essentially the same ingredients, and I never measure so it's never the same twice!

Posted by: salsa! | July 10, 2008 3:06 PM

I like to use tomatillos in a green sauce for chicken enchiladas. They get roasted, processed and sieved. Add some cream or half&half, season to taste. Pour over the whole enchilada, some cheese, bake.

Posted by: Dave | July 10, 2008 4:21 PM

My recipe for Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa

about 10 tomatillos
about 2 avocados
1 clove garlic
1 jalapeno (seeded), or other chile of your choice

Puree until smooth in blender or food processor. Vary ratio of tomatillo to avocado to your taste.

Beautiful pale green color (which does not turn brown like guacamole!) and tangy but creamy taste. I especially like like with potato and chorizo tacos.

Posted by: Pro Baker | July 10, 2008 5:18 PM

Tomatilloes are also VERY easy to grow and bear faster than tomatoes. They also freeze great (although you'll have to cook them then - pretty much like you would do tomatoes, as they become all watery). Still great for any cooked sauce - and you can throw them in the pot still frozen.


Posted by: Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener | July 10, 2008 9:40 PM

Oh gosh...I tried someone else's recipe once just to see how theirs turned out, and it was alright. I don't remember exactly how it was prepared but I was okay. Obviously not so memorable. However,whenever I make it, I like to add a bit of sugar, cumin, lots of garlic and a few other herbs... Makes for a great sauce over chicken.

Posted by: Bren | July 11, 2008 12:04 AM

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