The first time I had a tomatillo was in my English class freshman year of college. One day, a classmate walked in with a package from a friend containing a tiny basket of ripe tomatillos. Her friend worked on a farm and had wanted to send her a taste of the fall harvest. She was generous enough to share, and to explain that you have to remove the husk. I popped one in my mouth and was delighted! Tomatillos smell earthy and sweet, and they have a sunny taste that’s perfect to usher in spring. Raw, they are crisp and tangy like a kiwi-tomato hybrid; roasted and made into salsa verde, they taste great as a dip or a sauce to spice up chicken or chili.
Salsa verde is a sauce that is cheap and quick to make. Tomatillos are fairly common, especially in markets located in neighborhoods with a larger Latino population. I bought mine at the produce market near where I work, which has a varied selection of ethnic food and some great exotic produce for much lower prices than you’d find at a chain. A 1.5 pound bag of tomatillos that I bought for $1.49 made about three pints of salsa. Husking the tomatillos is easy to do in ten minutes or so while talking to a friend.
Salsa Verde — Makes about 3 pints
Prep time: 15 minutes (not including husking)
Cook time: 6-8 minutes, plus 2 minutes in food processor
1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husked (approximately 10 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
juice of one lime, or 2 tablespoons bottled lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2+ jalapeño peppers, stemmed and seeded
*Two jalapeños makes for a mild salsa–great for potlucks and kids. If you like more heat, add more peppers and leave in some of the seeds.
Husk and wash the tomatillos before making your salsa. Tomatillos will be sticky when you remove the husk; this is normal. Make sure to wash them thoroughly, then dry.
Line one baking sheet with foil and put all of the tomatillos on it. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat, then place under the broiler turned to high for 4 minutes. Remove from oven and lightly shake the pan so tomatillos roll and shift. Broil for another 3-4 minutes or until tomatillos are brown in spots. Roasting improves the flavor of your salsa.
While tomatillos are broiling, chop onion and cilantro. Add to the work bowl of a food processor, then squeeze lime juice into the bowl. Add salt and jalapeños, then add tomatillos and process. This mixture completely filled my 8-cup work bowl; if you have a smaller food processor, you could process in batches. When salsa has reached an even consistency, taste and adjust flavors to your preference. Place in jars and refrigerate until ready to use.
Source: Alicia’s original, with taste-testing help from my housemate Liz