Ever notice that funny, paper-wrapped sphere in the vegetable section of your grocery store and wonder, “What in the world do you do with that”? Take a second to peel back the papery husk, and you will find something that looks like a small, firm green tomato; and, in fact, it shares many similarities with its cousin, the tomato. Also a member of the nightshade family — along with tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers and okra — the tomatillo tastes like a slightly tart tomato and pairs perfectly with spice-forward Mexican and Indian dishes.
Also known as the Mexican husk tomato, tomatillos are a staple of Mexican cuisine. Even if you aren’t familiar with the tomatillo, you have most likely enjoyed salsa verde made with tomatillos at your favorite Mexican restaurant. So, next time you’re grilling up fajitas at home or anticipating Taco Tuesday, why not whip up a batch of grilled tomatillo salsa as an accompaniment. It’s simple, takes just minutes and tastes so much better than the jarred varieties that are full of preservatives.
What to look for when purchasing tomatillos? You want to select medium-sized, firm tomatillos with intact husks. When you peel back the husk, you will notice a sticky protective coating on the bright green fruit. Run the husked tomatillos under cool water, gently rubbing the flesh with your hands to remove the sappy veneer. Now, you’re ready to get cooking!
Char the tomatillos on all sides to produce that distinctive smokey flavor.
Allow them to cool completely, then place into the blender whole, add the other ingredients, pulse and voila!
Grilled Tomatillo Salsa
Grilling the tomatillos gives this salsa verde a subtle smoky flavor that pairs perfectly with Mexican, Indian and Vietnamese dishes. It's terrific on fish tacos! And although it's called salsa, this sauce is a great accompaniment for many dishes, including grilled pork, shrimp or chicken. It even makes a great dressing for a taco salad!
- 5 tomatillos, husked and cleaned
- Juice of 1/2 a lime
- 1 small garlic clove
- 3-4 sprigs cilantro, stems removed
- 4 dashes green Tabasco
- 1/4 tsp. honey
- Chile flakes
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 1 persian cucumber, diced (or 1/2 regular cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced)
- Optional: 1/3 avocado, diced
- Preheat the grill or indoor grill pan. Spray the husked, cleaned and dried tomatillos with a little oil and place on the hot grate. Grill, turning regularly, until they are charred on all sides. Set aside to cool
- When tomatillos are cooled, remove the woody stems (if any remain) and place the rest in the blender, charred skin and all. Add the garlic clove, lime juice, Tabasco, cilantro and salt. Using the chop feature, pulse to blend the tomatillos until they reach the desired consistency. The grilling process naturally softens the tomatillos, so it will only take a few seconds.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings accordingly. Add more salt, Tobasco, lime juice and/or cilantro, if you prefer a stronger flavor. If the taste is too tart for your liking, add the honey to balance the flavors.
- Place the diced cucumber in a bowl and pour the tomatillo salsa over the top. Stir to blend. If you like it even chunkier, add diced avocado and fold into the salsa. Top with a shake of red chile flakes, if desired.
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