August 26, 2013

Garden Series Part VII: Tomatillos

Okay, it's more like Part VI-b because I just wrote about the nightshade family a couple of weeks ago...

...but my nightshade recipe did not include tomatillos and I have now written over fifty (!) little articles for you all, so I have license to be a little cavalier.

I spent a little hangout time in the garden the other morning realizing how terribly overgrown the whole thing is and then lost track of time pulling up over-prolific strawberry plants, rearranging cucumber vines, and staking quinoa stalks.  I also disentangled the many, many branches of tomatillos that were starting to climb through the privacy fence to my neighbor's yard.  Guessing by the way she ripped the pole beans apart that reached her side, I don't think she would appreciate the tomatillos.

I'm actually really happy with the shear abundance of fruit on the tomatillo plants this year.  Last year I grew one very large plant that had hundreds of sweet yellow flowers, but never produced a single fruit.  While I hadn't read anything on the subject, I know that sometimes growing more than one plant of a single variety is necessary and I gave that theory a shot this year.  It worked.

The tomatillos you see here are the Purple de Milpa variety and are quite a bit smaller than the standard ones you find in the grocery store.  As they get more direct sunlight, they get more purple (purpler?).  The purple stripes and shoulders you see on the fruits themselves are where the husks either split or grew transparent as they dried.

So what to actually do with tomatillos?  I only know one recipe that uses them, which is an especially delicious salsa I learned to make from my friend Hector's mother, Angelica.  She's from Mexico (they both are) and the salsa is likely traditional to Michoacán, but I got the impression that she is inventive in her own right.  She makes a smoky chile oil that I would buy by the case.

DISCLAIMER: I checked to make sure the recipe isn't a family secret and now I get to share it with you here.  If you like it, Angelica gets all the credit.  If you don't, I probably forgot something and it's totally my fault.  Or you simply have bad taste, you poor thing.

This is an avocado salsa, but is completely different than guacamole.  It's wonderful on just about anything, especially fish tacos.  I didn't have the fixin's for fish tacos today (plus, I'm still working on the food-sensitivity thing from last week), so I put it on the chicken I made for dinner.  I'm not a huge fan of chicken, so this was a good move.

  • 1 pint tomatillos
  • 1-2 jalapeños, depending on how spicy you like
  • 1 avocado
  • salt to taste

Peel the husks off the tomatillos and rinse thoroughly to remove the sticky film.  Wash the jalapeños and trim the stem from the end.  Put the tomatillos and jalapeños in a medium saucepan, add water just to cover, and set over medium heat.  Bring to a boil and simmer until the tomatillos are softened, about five minutes.

Using the saucepan lid to hold the tomatillo mixture back, drain off the excess water.  Put the mixture into a blender.  If you are using a standard blender, remember to remove the center of the lid and cover with a washcloth and your hand to avoid a hot-blended-mess from erupting onto your ceiling and into your eyes.  Blend until smooth.  I sort of have a feeling that Angelica strains the seeds from the mixture at this point, but I'm a little lazy and don't mind the seeds.

Add the avocado and salt and blend until smooth.  The consistency should be just pourable, so add water as necessary to thin.  Taste for salt before pouring the salsa into a bowl.  My favorite way to taste-test a salsa is to use a tortilla chip.  And to do several tests.

Allow to cool and chill until ready to use.  Seriously, put it on anything you can think of.

Look at that well-balanced meal!!!

Note:  Uhh...I'm aware that I posted two salsa recipes in a row.  I'm letting the 50+ posts thing go to my head and I'm fine with that.  And also, my dear friend is hosting a Labor Day Salsa Challenge and it's been on my mind.  And it's summer, for crying out loud.  But I promise something more substantial next week.

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