One thing I love about CSAs is the exposure you get to vegetables you maybe don’t think to buy. Take tomatillos, for instance. Do I love those fresh-tasting Mexican green sauces often found gracing enchilada plates? Yes. Do I suspect that tomatillos play a vital role in their deliciousness? Yes. Have I ever bought a tomatillo in my life? No!
Well, why the hell not? That seems to be the question posed by my neighborhood farmers judging from the pint after pint after pint of tomatillos we’ve been offered this summer. I can’t ever say no. The result is I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with tomatillos. Now I know to wait until the yellowish-green fruits fill up their husks and split the seams before picking them. I know that you can make salsas out of either raw or cooked tomatillos, but that I prefer cooked. That the resulting salsa is absolutely fantastic for both scooping up with tortilla chips and spooning over roasted fish (or, as we had last night, pan-fried dabs—a flatfish related to the flounder). For a smoother sauce for those chicken enchiladas I mentioned, just run the salsa through the food processor or blender, thinning with some water if necessary.
Who knows, maybe one day I'll attain a similar comfort level with all of these millions of exotic hot peppers that keep ending up in my refrigerator!
Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
For the love of god, don’t touch your eyes (or any other sensitive part of yourself or anyone else) with your chile pepper fingers. Scrub your hands WELL. Trust me.
1-1½ lbs. tomatillos (about two pints)
1-2 chiles, like serranos or jalapeños
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1-2 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
Lime juice, to taste
Salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove husks from tomatillos and rinse off the sticky resin in warm water. Cut them in half and place cut-side down in baking dish along with whole chiles. Roast until soft, 20-30 minutes. Let cool slightly so you can handle them comfortably.
Coarsely chop the tomatillos and put into a small bowl. Finely chop the roasted chiles and add as much as you think you can handle. Chiles vary in how much heat they deliver, both between all the different varieties and within their own ranks. For a very mild salsa, add only the flesh of the chile (slice the four sides from the pepper, scrape off and discard the seeds and inner ribs, and mince). For more heat, add some seeds. Not all the seeds! The number of seeds you should add is directly proportional to how convincingly you can roll your r’s. Here’s a good test—say this:
Un burro comía berros y el perro se los robó, el burro lanzó un rebuzno, y el perro al barro cayó.
If that doesn’t roll off the tongue, I’d lay off the seeds.
Add the onion, cilantro, lime juice, and salt (be generous with the salt, though). Serve with tortilla chips or mounded over roasted fish. For a less chunky, more uniform sauce for, say, those chicken enchiladas I mentioned, purée in food processor and thin with water to desired consistency.
Tomatillos, onion, chiles: Waltham Fields Community Farms, Waltham, MA