ingredient: tomatillos

Few things excite me more than a new ingredient.

Most people tend to discover new edibles by reading and following recipes to a T.  This has happened for me, on occasion (See: TastingTable’s fantastic okra recipe or David Lebovitz’s take on Ottolenghi’s Fried Beans w/Sorrel & Sumac), but my habit of mix-and-matching recipes or using them for “inspiration” means that obscure ingredients like sherry vinegar tend to get the shaft.

On the flip, I’m an impulsive ingredient explorer.  I eagerly purchase new varietals of familiar ingredients (fairytale eggplant, heirloom tomatoes of any shape or size) and splurge on items I’ve never before seen (long beans and purslane are two of my found-on-the-fly favorites).

My zeal for new flavors hasn’t always worked out to my advantage.  Once, in Paris, I bought a piment antillais (a habanero pepper), thinking that - since Parisians cannot tolerate any level of spice - it must be safe.  I was wrong.  And furthermore, I was most wrong in deciding to crunch into a morsel of that pepper raw to “see how spicy it was”.  One liter of milk and a whole baguette later, I finally stopped crying.

Needless to say, I’m less experimental with foreign spicy substances these days.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy a good spicy salsa from time to time.

Cue the tomatillos.  I had never consciously consumed a tomatillo until one week ago, when my CSA bag arrived full of these little green, cloaked, tomato-like creatures.  Assuming they weren’t spicy, I cracked into one and was surprised by the seedy, dense interior.  After a bit of research, I learned tomatillos are a key component in  salsa verde.

Since I’m always up for an adventure involving my blender (which, yes, I use in the place of a proper Cuisinart on many occasions), salsa verde it was.  While I like spicy, I prefer something a bit milder than your typical salsa verde, so rather than jalapeno, I opted for a pickled Anaheim chile I already had on hand.

Salsa Verde (for the Cuisinart-deprived)


A dozen or so tomatillos ½ a red onion De-seeded, pickled Anaheim chile A chopped handful of cilantro 1/4 cup lime juice A good squeeze of honey (I used alfalfa honey) salt to taste

1)  Chop tomatillos, onion, chile and cilantro – add to blender. 2) Add honey, salt, and lime juice to blender. 3) Use the ice/pulse setting to chop and a “poker” (usually a high-quality chopstick in my case) to push down the unchopped chunks in between pulses. 4) Patience, my friends. 5) And voila! After 3 minutes or so, you have an amazing, medium/mild salsa verde.

Note: Salsa verde is a great condiment for any leftover frozen turkey scraps you still have from Thanksgiving – turkey enchiladas!