Also known as a husk tomato, the tomatillo is a member of the solanaceae family (which also includes tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants). Like its relatives, tomatillos love hot, humid weather. They look like small, green tomatoes encased in a loose-fitting papery husk; once they fill out the husk completely, they are ready for harvest. Tomatillos are native to Central and South America, and are important in Mexican cooking. The tomatillo is probably best known for its prominent role in salsa verde.
Store at room temperature (with husks on) for up to 2 weeks. For longer-term storage, refrigerate in husks (but not in a plastic bag).
Lightly sauté (or grill) tomatillos with other delicate summer veggies. Tomatillos can also be eaten raw and whole (some call it a “tomato-apple” when eaten this way). Chop tomatillos and add to salads. Tomatillos can also be made into preserves or pies.
1 ½ lb tomatillos
½ cup chopped white onion
½ cup cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
¼ teaspoon sugar
2 Jalapeño peppers or 2 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped (you can use whole for more heat if you want)
Salt to taste
(Optional: Include a few garlic cloves in with the oven roasting method.)
Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse well.
To cook the tomatillos, you can either roast, boil, or grill them. Oven Roasting Method: Cut the tomatillos in half and place cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under a broiler for about 5-7 minutes to lightly blacken the skin. Pan Roasting Method: Coat the bottom of a skillet with a little vegetable oil. Heat on high heat. Place the tomatillos in the pan and sear on one side, then flip over and brown on the other side. Remove from heat. Boiling Method: Place tomatillos in a saucepan, cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove tomatillos with a slotted spoon. Grilling Method: Grill whole tomatillos 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally, until softened and a bit charred. (I like to also grill the onions and jalapeños when using this method.)
Place tomatillos, lime juice, onions, cilantro, chili peppers, sugar in a blender or food processor and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. Season to taste with salt. Cool in refrigerator. Serve with chips or as a salsa accompaniment to Mexican dishes. Yield: Makes 3 cups. (Adapted from original recipe here.)
Triple T Chili
The three Ts in this chili are turkey, tomatillo, and tomato. If we could suggest a fourth T, it would be tasty! Serves 6.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped red onion
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground turkey
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 bay leaves
¾ pound tomatillos, husked and quartered
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 (28-ounce can) cannellini beans
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 cups chicken broth
½ pound zucchini or pattypan squash, chopped
4 green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Heat a large, sturdy stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat until shimmering. Add the onion, pepper, and salt. Stire until the liquid is released from the vegetables and evaporates, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the turkey and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until it is no longer pink. Sprinkle in the spices, and the bay leaves, and stir well. Add the tomatillos, tomatoes, beans, vinegar, and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Stir in the zucchini, green onions, and cilantro, and simmer until the zucchini is tender, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
(Recipe by Patricia Mulvey and Laura Gilliam of Local Thyme, in Farm-Fresh and Fast: Easy Recipes and Tips for Making the Most of Fresh, Seasonal Foods.)