In this column, Scout contributor and food enthusiast Maciel Pereda shares her personal recipes aimed at solving everyday cooking conundrums. Possibilities are endless, ingredients are local, and cravings are always respected. Today Maciel shares two recipes featuring one misunderstood local fruit, currently in season…
Tomatillos are out now at a Farmer’s Market near you, and I promise you won’t be fighting people off to get the nicest ones like some of the other fruits currently on display. That’s partially because a lot of people don’t know what to do with them, and largely because of the way they get lumped in with tomatoes. Actually, tomatillos are closer to gooseberries in terms of taste and texture. Their role is largely to serve as a base for salsa verde, aka the relatively thin, pea-green salsa you’ve likely seen at taquerias (it’s usually listed as one of the milder versions available). Though you can absolutely make salsa from raw tomatillos, I prefer dialling down these fruits’ natural sourness through some form of cooking. Late summer is when you’ll see the loveliest tomatillos available in Vancouver, so don’t wait until December to decide you want to try your hand at homemade Mexican salsa verde.
Here’s the basic rundown of two (out of many possible) ways to make salsa verde. With a sack of tomatillos from the market, you can very easily whip up either an intensely roasted, earthy style of this salsa, or a lighter, simmered version. The roasted one (salsa verde asada) is thick and luxurious – almost creamy in texture, despite being inherently vegan. It’s perfect for using as you would in a restaurant, dished out to your liking as a condiment on foods like tacos or tostadas. The “cooked” version (salsa verde cocida) is prepared by simmering the ingredients in water, resulting in a considerably thinner sauce that retains a brighter acidity from the tomatillos. It’s ideal for using in applications where you need a good amount of salsa because it’s part of the actual dish, such as chilaquiles or enchiladas. There may or may not even be an old ‘How To Cook Vancouver’ column that features chilaquiles verdes, a dish that requires this exact style of salsa verde…
Tomatillo Salsa, Two Ways
For either version, you will need:
1 ½ lb tomatillos, husked and rinsed in warm water
1 medium white onion, very roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and de-stemmed if desired
½ bunch cilantro, tougher stems discarded
1 tsp sugar
1 lime (optional)
If making the roasted version, begin by heating your oven to very hot (between 450 and 500 degrees is usually good). Cut larger tomatillos into quarters and smaller ones into halves, and spread on a lined baking sheet along with the chopped, onion, garlic, and jalapeno(s). Drizzle with a bit of neutral oil and season with salt. Roast until bubbling, melty, and slightly charred (start checking after ~15 minutes). Let cool enough to puree (discard garlic skins first), then add to a blender or food processor along with the cilantro and sugar. For this salsa, you can keep the texture as chunky or smooth as you prefer. Taste and season with salt or lime juice (if using) as needed.
For the cooked version, cut your tomatillos as instructed in the paragraph above and place in a medium saucepan. Pour enough water over to almost cover (but definitely NOT submerge) the tomatillos. Add in the chopped onion, garlic cloves, and jalapeno(s). Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for ~15 minutes, or until very soft and melded together (discard any errant garlic skins). Let cool enough to puree, then add to a blender or food processor along with cilantro and sugar. Blend until smooth and runny, then taste and season to desired salt level. Stir in lime juice if extra acidity or brightness is desired.
Once completely cool, you can store either version in the fridge. I should probably tell you to only keep this salsa for two weeks, but I definitely use it for up to a month and am here to tell the tale, so… Enjoy!
Plot out your own Farmer’s Market salsa verde shopping spree here.