We came across the most beautiful tomatillos at the market on Saturday. Deeply purple, blushed with lime green, and encased in papery heart-shaped husks. Almost too beautiful to eat. I snagged those babies up and ran on home to make salsa. Okay maybe I didn't actually run. The hills man, the hills. I'm lucky if I can squeeze out two words in between my short labored breaths on some of those hills.
Like tomatoes, tomatillos are a member of the nightshade family, with a waxy skin on the outside and a moist (but not quite juicy) seed-bearing flesh on the inside. The flavor, on the other hand, is quite different from a tomato. They are sweet and tart, and a bit citrusy too. The kind that usually shows up at the supermarket are bright green with brownish-green husks. The purple kind is a bit sweeter and is actually delicious eaten raw.
In its most basic form, tomatillo salsa can be made by simmering tomatillos, chiles, and garlic cloves for about 10 minutes, blending everything together along with some chopped onion, cilantro and salt, and then simmering the mixture for another 5-10 minutes. This recipe gets some added flavor from a couple of roasted peppers.
I used poblano and hungarian peppers here but feel free to use whatever peppers you like. If you've never roasted a pepper over an open flame before, let me tell you, it is FUN. The skin starts to bubble and blister and blacken and maybe it's just the pyromaniac in me but I get a little giddy from charring those peppers to death. It just feels like breaking the rules to be sticking food into an open flame on your stove top. Hide yo' kids.
After it's black all over, you wrap the pepper in some aluminum foil and let it steam for a few minutes. Then you peel off the charred skin, leaving a sweet roasted pepper that you can chop up and put into salads or layer into a good sandwich with goat cheese and other goodies.
If you really want to up the ante on this, please consider doing a version of Ninfa's green sauce by adding avocado and sour cream to the mix. Seriously, that version of this salsa will change your life. Creamy, tangy, and spicy enough to satisfy my need for heat, Ninfa's green sauce is unrivaled in my book. Of course, if you want the real thing, you gotta go to Ninfa's. Which means you gotta go to Houston. Best enchiladas verdes ever? I'd say that's reason alone to plan a trip somewhere.
SALSA VERDE DE TOMATILLO
- 1 1/2 pounds tomatillos
- 2-3 chiles (a mix of jalapeños and serranos would be good)
- 2 medium-sized peppers such as Poblano or Hungarian peppers
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 white onion, roughly chopped
- 2 big handfuls cilantro
- scant tablespoon salt
- squeeze of lime juice
Char the peppers over a medium flame on your stove top until the skin is black all over. Wrap in aluminum foil and let steam for 5 minutes. Unwrap the peppers and peel of the blackened skin.
Remove the husks from the tomatillos and give them a quick rinse. Place the tomatillos, chiles, and garlic in a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. If using purple and green tomatillos, let the green tomatillos simmer for a few minutes before adding the purple ones, as those won't need to be cooked as long. Simmer the tomatillos for about 10 minutes, until the green ones lose a bit of their color.
With a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatillos and garlic to a food processor or blender. Remove the stems from both the small chiles and the roasted peppers and place those in the blender too, along with the chopped onion and salt. Blend the mixture to a smooth consistency. Add the cilantro and give a few more pulses to roughly chop that up.
Transfer the salsa to a pot, add a squeeze of lime juice (to taste) and simmer on the stove for another 5-10 minutes to let the sauce thicken a bit. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.
Makes about 3 cups - this stuff goes fast.