Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Oven Roasted Tomatillo Salsa




Tomatillos have taken off in our heirloom garden. Two varieties have both grown equally well. My tomatillo verdes yielded rich, vibrant green fruit. The big surprise was the Purple Coban tomatillos, a native mountain variety from Guatemala. The Purple Cobans are a lush, purple and green mottled fruit much sweeter than expected. When roasted, they become even sweeter.

Tomatillos are thought to have grown wild in the Andes mountains eventually being domesticated by local tribes and then spread to other South and Central American cultures such as the Aztecs. Tomatillos are often confused with green tomatoes but are very different in both texture and flavor. Tomatillos are a member of the nightshade family but are closer to a gooseberry than an actual tomato. When ripening on the vine, a husk evolves first protecting the tiny fruit bud until it matures and breaks through the papery skin. The husk is almost the size of the full grown tomatillo throughout the growing period of the fruit itself. Tomatillos are ready to pick when the fruit catches up to the size of the skin and can be seen peeking through.

Salsa is now in the top five condiments of the U.S. right up there with ketchup and Tabasco. The name "salsa" most likely was given by the Conquistadors for the concoction of chilies, tomatillos or tomatoes used by the indigenous cooks of Central America.

*****culinary tip - tomatillos have a sticky, soapy residue between the husk and the fruit. Fill a sink with cold water and rinse the tomatillos twice to remove all the residue. I made this for a pot luck dinner party to serve with my homemade carnitas cornbread casserole, so I was cooking for a crowd. This recipe can be easily halved.

Oven Roasted Tomatillo Salsa:
40 tomatillos
8 to 10 garlic cloves
4 Poblano peppers
2 to 4 fresh jalapenos or serrano peppers
2 1/2 cups of coarsely chopped onion
1 cup chopped cilantro
olive oil
sea salt (to taste)

Set oven to broil.

Place all the ingredients except for cilantro, olive oil and salt on rimmed cookie sheets. Roast all ingredients until the tomatillos begin to burst and caramelize and the poblanos get very dark and their skins begin to separate. Keep turning all the vegetables until all sides are roasted.

Remove poblanos and place in zip lock bag. Allow to sweat, then peel off the roasted skin. Add back to the roasted vegetable mixture.

Allow for the roasted vegetables to cool slightly, begin scooping the roasted vegetable mixture into a large capacity food processor, be sure and add all of the juices from the roasted vegetables. Add a handful of cilantro and process. Continue this until all roasted vegetables and cilantro have been processed.

Add sea salt to taste and a bit of olive oil for consistency. Best if made the day before and allowed to sit overnight in refrigerator. Can be reheated or served cold.

* Can also be combined with Crema Mexicana for a beautiful green cream sauce.

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