Simple Salsa Verde
The really cool thing about a CSA or Farm share is that sometimes you get vegetables you never ate before.
The really confusing thing about a CSA or Farm share is that sometimes you get vegetables you never cooked before…
I’m moderately adventurous in my tastes. When I lived in New Jersey I had this fan club (OK, slight exaggeration) of people in various ethnic stores who seemed to like me because I was one of the few Americans who came in for anything other than snacks or milk. I bought several kinds of feta in the Egyptian store, chili paste and dried mushrooms in the Korean store, dal in the Indian store…
But after nearly buying Scotch bonnets with the intent of chopping and sauteing a few to add to my pasta sauce – I was saved by a kind West Indian lady who made sure I knew what I was looking at – I did use some caution.
The same greengrocer who sold unlabeled Scotch bonnets had piles of (also unmarked) tomatillos – funny looking tomatoes in papery husks, they seemed – and I looked, and was curious, and had no idea how to use them, so never bought them. (Yes, this was twenty years ago, back before routine internet access. It was harder then to find random information.) So then, a few years ago, when my CSA share included a couple, I did hunt up information. A problem, though, was that most recipes required quantities like 12 or 20 tomatillos – when I had 2. So… over time I nudled around with them, and learned how to use them without recipes.
First of all, they are sour. As a culture, we’ve pulled away from using sour flavors much, except to balance sweet, and an occasional spritz of lemon. Even pickles are apt to be sweetened bread and butters, instead of a sour dill. But I’ve always liked sauerkraut, and full sour pickles, and giardiniera, and I have been coming to appreciate the use of tamarind and mango powder in India, and pickled green ume plums in Japan. And here, I have played with rhubarb, sour cherries, and sorrel sauce – so now, tomatillos.
There’s a texture issue, too – they rapidly cook down very mushy. No “tender” stage at all – crisp and raw, or almost liquid. So I’ve cut one up and tossed it in with the onions I have softened, knowing that it will start a sauce right there.
Here, though, I decided to show how easy it is to make a basic salsa verde (which simply means Green Sauce.) Don’t worry about precise amounts or proportions – use what you have, add onion if you’d like… skip the garlic if you don’t want it… I used four tomatillos to one jalapeno, but they’re small tomatillos and a large jalapeno. (And in this area, this summer, we’re just barely on the right side of drought after several very wet summers. I keep being startled by how hot the peppers are this year!) So numbers may vary, but in bulk (estimated by eye) I think I’d want about three to four times as much tomatillo as jalapeno – and feel free to vary that by your own taste. I also have a large clove of garlic – again, amounts can vary, by availability and taste.
I split the tomatillos in half, and put the cut side down on a pan (which I had covered with parchment to prevent sticking.) And I cut and seeded the jalapeno, and peeled the garlic. Then I broiled it. I will say that this is one of the moments when a toaster oven comes in handy – I didn’t have to heat a whole oven just to blister these. (You can do it over a flame, if you prefer, but I’d worry about the tomatillo falling apart.) I broiled them for ten minutes – check after seven or eight. You can see that they have all blistered and just begun to char, and if you look closely I think you can see the liquid that has come from the tomatillos.
So then I just let it all rest a while, to cool off. Once everything had cooled, I just slid it all (including the liquid) into my mini processor and whirred until smooth. And, bingo – I had sauce.
Now – for ways to use it… You can pour it over a bland food, another time I’ll use it over my breakfast eggs and beans, you can use it to dip chips… I had shredded pork shoulder, from the last time I slow cooked one, and decided that tacos would be good. So I heated the pork in a pan, and added about half the sauce to moisten and flavor it. Then I set up a taco board – heated corn tortillas, and put out bowls of tomatoes, and scallions, and jalapeno/carrot pickles – and called Rich to assemble his own tacos. (He skipped the pickles – the salsa verde was enough hot and sour for him!) It was all good, but the sauce definitely elevated it from “Let’s finish the rest of the shredded pork, for a quick meal” to “Ohh! Tacos Carnitas with salsa verde! Delicious!”
Simple Salsa Verde
- Jalapenos split and seeded
- garlic optional
- onion optional
- Take however many tomatillos you have or want to use. Cut them in half, and put the cut side down on a baking pan.
- Then add aromatics, again, in the amounts you want. (A good place to begin is about one quarter the amount of jalapeno in bulk as you have tomatillo - but vary by taste.) Add onion and garlic if desired. Again, cut them in two (seeding the jalapenos) and put them cut side down on the pan.
- Broil for 7-10 minutes, until softened and starting to bubble and char just slightly. Let cool.
- Scrape everything from the pan, including the liquid from the tomatillos, into a food processor. Puree.