As we remarked when we picked up our CSA share, tomatillos are challenging for us; we just never really seem to find the right recipe. We’ve added them to soups. We’ve added them to tomato sauces. We’ve added them to salads. All, more as a way to grudgingly use them up, rather than because we truly enjoy them. Tomatillos, to us, just have a kind of odd flavor, not quite lemony, not quite savory, which makes it difficult to find a great way to use them. This time, we thought we’d try a salsa. Let’s see how it turns out.
We thought that we’d try roasting everything before use, hoping to mellow the flavors. It works for garlic and onion, so. we thought, maybe for tomatillos, too. Plus it might just give the tomatillos the slightest smokey flavor. If we had more time, we might consider roasting everything on the grill, but, for today, we’ll go with oven roasting, and make do. (we had something else we were baking at roughly the same time — watch for it Thursday and Friday).
Makes about 1 cup.
Tomatillos are odd-looking vegetables (okay, they are a fruit, just as tomatoes are really a fruit), covered in that papery husk that’s peeled off and discarded. And, while they’re the main ingredient, you could probably make this salsa with green tomatoes, or ripe tomatoes. Lemon juice would be best if it came from a freshly-squeezed lemon, or lime juice would also work, but, you will need a sour, citrusy flavor or the salsa will taste flat. The red pepper: use a pepper that you like. We actually used a dried red chili, rehydrated in hot water. If you like hot salsa, leave the in seeds and pith; otherwise de-seed chiles and scrape out the pith. Finally, the cumin. We used that partly because most salsas use cilantro and we don’t like cilantro, and, partly because it’s widely used in Mexican cooking. We’ve read it is the third most used spice in the world, right behind salt and pepper.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
De-husk tomatillos. Just peel the husks right off and discard. Wash under running water to remove the stickiness. They’ll still have a slight coating on them, sort of sticky and slippery at the same time. Don’t worry; that’s normal.
Oil, spice, and roast. To make for simple cleanup, we fashioned a small roasting pan out of aluminum foil. Place all the vegetables on it, drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cumin, then roll everything around so it gets coated. Slide into the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender.
Blend. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until desired consistency. We like to make it just the slightest bit chunky, but you’re making this, so do it however you like. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
Taste. Taste and adjust seasonings. Then stir to mix.
Meld. Scrape the salsa into a small glass jar and refrigerate overnight so the flavors will have time to meld. This should help eliminate those hot spots from the chunks of peppers and garlic, and lead to a smoother-tasting salsa.
As it turns out, this is a pretty good salsa. Better than the salsa verde we’ve had from the store, and definitely much spicier. When you make a small batch, it’s hard to know exactly how much pepper to use, as each pepper is a bit different in the heat level, but a nice spicy salsa is good, too. The roasting really helps to eliminate the sour taste of the tomatillos, which is nice. We think that this might end up as a go-to recipe to use up those pesky ground cherries. Four stars.