Friday, June 17, 2011

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde)

I became somewhat obsessed with tomatillo salsa my junior year in college. I'd never had such green, tangy, spicy delicious stuff until then, and I definitely wasn't going to go without it while back in Spain for the summer. My mother and I scoured my home town in search of tomatillos, the green tomatoes with sticky husks that are the base for the salsa. Not even my mother's veggie and fruit guy, Luis, could get them for us. That's when we resorted to El Corte Inglés, because as my friend Ana says "Lo que no tenga El Corte Inglés no existe en España" ("If El Corte Inglés doesn't have it, it doesn't exist in Spain").

Well, El Corte Inglés might sell everything from houses to toothpaste, as well as most specialty groceries but it didn't have tomatillos. I realized the difficulty we had finding these suckers was probably the reason I hadn't tried green salsa until I moved to the US. So with a heavy heart and a pouty face I prepared myself for a salsa verde-less summer; red salsa would have to cut it. Fortunately, if you live in the US you will probably be able to find these funny looking nightshades in almost any well-stocked supermarket. If you live elsewhere, you may have to go on a scavenger hunt, which will hopefully have a happier ending than mine. Once you have a big bowl of homemade salsa in front of you, though, I promise whatever tomatillo-finding expedition you went on will seem worthwhile

I got my tomatillos in my weekly CSA box: it doesn't get much easier than that. Instead of boiling them, I stuck them under the broiler, along with some jalapeños and garlic, until they were charred, for a salsa with more depth of flavor. After blending it all together, and stirring in a few more ingredients I had a lot of salsa. So I did the only reasonable thing- I ate lots of it. I put tons on my black bean tacos, served it to my girlfriends with some tortilla chips, spooned some into a wrap... You get the point. In spite of my best salsa-eating efforts, I still have some left in the fridge but I can guarantee it won't survive the weekend.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde)
Makes about 2 1/2 to 3 cups
  • 2 lbs / 910 g tomatillos, husks removed, washed, dried and halved
  • 2-3 jalapeños, seeded if you'd like
  • 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small red onion, diced small
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro, finely chopped
  • Optional: 1 small avocado, diced
1. Preheat your broiler, with your oven tray set about 4 inches or so away from it. On a greased sheet pan, arrange the tomatillos (cut side down), the jalapeños and the garlic. Drizzle with the olive oil and rub it in to make sure it coats all the ingredients. Place under the broiler until partially charred, or about 5-7 minutes. Flip everything with a spatula and broil the other side for about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Place the jalapeños in a bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Alternatively, place them in a paper bag and close it tightly. This will steam the charred skins off and make the jalapeños easier to peel. Once they're cool enough to handle, peel the jalapeños and the garlic cloves. You don't have to completely peel the tomatillos, just do your best to remove the blackened parts of the skin.

2. Place the tomatillos, jalapeños, garlic, lemon juice and salt in your food processor or blender and whiz until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the onion and the cilantro. If you'd also like to add avocado, I'd recommend doing so right before you're about to serve the salsa, to prevent it from getting mushy. Serve chilled or at room temperature over tostadas, black bean tacos, or with your favorite chips.

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