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Tomatillo salsa, or salsa verde, is a workhorse in the Mexican kitchen and a fiesta for your taste buds, so why not try making it from scratch? A tomatillo looks like a little green tomato, but it’s actually a member of the gooseberry family. It has a papery thin husk that’s easily removed before eating.
Tomatillos can be found in most American supermarkets, or in your local Latino or Mexican market. I usually pick mine up at the small Latin grocery store around the corner. Look for fruits that are bright green with a nice firm skin. They have a delicate, mild tomato-like flavor that’s the perfect canvas for something like a salsa, where you add whatever ingredients you like or happen to have on hand to spice it up to your liking.
Salsa verde is healthy, inexpensive to make, and can be easily manipulated to individual tastes—from sweet and mild to fiery hot. Besides that, it can be used in an unlimited number of dishes, or just as a complement to tortilla chips.
For instance, you can make a amazing breakfast burrito by scrambling a few eggs and then layering them in a warm tortilla with a little bit of cheese. Wrap it up like a burrito, smear sour cream on it and pour tomatillo salsa over the top, and you have heaven in a tortilla. For those who HAVE to have meat in their dishes (i.e., my boyfriend, Doug), add cooked spicy chorizo or thick-cut bacon for a little umph.
Or, add diced green chiles, Mexican oregano, cumin, salt and pepper to your favorite ground hamburger meat until well combined. Make patties and cook to desired doneness on grill or sauté pan. (I cook mine about 4 minutes on each side for medium.) Top with Chihuahua cheese, tomato and tomatillo salsa for a burger from the south side of the border.
One of my all-time favorite salsa verde meals is chicken enchiladas. Tyler Florence wrote an amazing recipe for Chicken Enchiladas for his Tyler’s Ultimate cooking show on Food Network. This is definitely my go-to recipe for enchiladas, but there never seems to be enough salsa. I substitute my Roasted Tomatillo Salsa for his when I make this recipe. I also add a little sour cream to the chicken mixture before I roll it up in the tortillas and bake.
One last super easy salsa verde meal is Salsa Verde Chicken. Simply salt & pepper chicken breasts, pour some salsa over top, and bake in a preheated 350˚ oven until the juices run clear when the breast is pierced, about 25-35 minutes. During the last few minutes in the oven, sprinkle shredded cheddar or Monterey jack over the breasts for a little melted cheese with every bite. Serve with sour cream and/or guacamole and a side of Spanish rice.
However you choose to use it, salsa verde offers limitless possibilities. You’d be silly not to try it.
Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
This recipe has a mild heat that hits at the back of tongue. For a very mild salsa, remove the seeds from the roasted jalapeno before you add it to the food processor. For even more heat, add another jalapeno or trade one out for a Serrano or Habernero chile. Red onion gives a spicy sweet bite to the salsa that’s great with tortilla chips. It’s best if the salsa chills for at least an hour for all the flavors to meld. For a print copy of this recipe, click here.
1½-2 lb. tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 white onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 jalapeno, whole
1 jalapeno, minced, ribs and seeds removed (leave these intact for more heat)
2 tsp. cumin
1½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
½ lime, juiced
Freshly grated black pepper
Optional: ¼ cup red onion, minced
Preheat the oven to 425˚. Line baking sheet with tin foil. Arrange the tomatillos, garlic cloves, quartered onion and the whole jalapeno on the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Bake in the center of a preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the veggies start to brown and the tomatillos look deflated. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes.
Move all the veggies and any juices to a food processor. Add salt, cumin, lime and pepper to taste. Pulse until well combined but still slightly chunky. Add cilantro, pulse to combine. Move to a small bowl, add red onion if desired, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Before serving, season to taste with salt and pepper.