Raise your salsa game: Turn tomatillos into versatile sauce

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

The gardening season is beginning to wind down. Like most years, some things have done well, and others haven’t. 

One of my success stories this year is my tomatillo (tow-muh-TEE-yo) crop. At one point I wasn’t sure they were going to make it because of the early May frost.

Tomatillos are members of the nightshade family along with tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and eggplants. They are sometimes known as Mexican husk tomatoes. They have been cultivated in Mesoamerica since pre-Columbian times and still play a prominent part in Mexican cuisine.

Differences: The fruit of the tomatillo is small, round and covered with a paper thin shield that is removed before eating. The color ranges from bright green to pale yellow. Although they may look like small green tomatoes, with one taste you will see where the similarity ends.

Slightly more acidic than tomatoes, the taste of tomatillos is brighter and more vegetal. The flesh of the fruit is also denser and less watery. To prepare them, remove the husk and give them a quick rinse to wash off the sticky residue.

Even if you don’t grow your own tomatillos, they are readily available year-round in the major supermarkets. Look for tomatillos that are bright green and firm, with the husk slightly attached.

Tomatillo can be eaten raw or cooked. One of my favorite ways to use them is to make salsa verde.  Although Mexican salsas are usually associated with chips, they make a great addition to any meal. I especially like salsa verde on my breakfast tacos.

One advantage to making your own salsa is that you can control the heat level. Serrano chiles are usually hotter than jalapenos, so use that as your guide to the heat level.

The recipe below make about three cups. It also freezes well.

Salsa verde makes a great topping for breakfast tacos. When shopping for tomatillos, look for ones that are bright green and firm, with the husk slightly attached.

Salsa Verde

  • 1 pound tomatillos
  • Handful of cilantro (fresh coriander)
  • 1-4 serrano or jalapeno chiles
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Husk and wash the tomatillos. Bring a medium-size pot of water to boil. Add the chiles, onion and 1 1/2 cloves garlic. Cook for 15 minutes. Add the tomatillos. When the tomatillos begin to change color, cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let sit for 10 minutes until the tomatillos finish cooking. Drain well and let cool.

Put the onion, garlic, chiles, remaining half clove garlic, salt and about half of the tomatillos in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Add the remaining toma-tillos and cilantro, and pulse a few times more until the salsa has a slightly chunky consistency.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.