Creating a Cinco de Mayo fiesta with tomatillos

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, April 30, 2011

Roasted, sautéed, grilled or stewed, tomatillos liven many Latin-inspired recipes with their vibrant color and tart flavor.

Tomatillos, pronounced toe-ma-tee-ohs, are often used raw in salsas or salads, or cooked for sauces. These small fruits are enclosed in a husk and resemble a mini un-ripened tomato, ranging in color from green to yellow to red/purple if allowed to mature. Though widely available year-round, the main season is May through October. They are best picked just before ripening, when the flesh is still firm, the color bright green and the flavors are tart.

Tomatillos can range in size from about an inch in diameter to the size of apricots. The condition of the husk is a good indication of the freshness of the fruit. Look for an intact, tight-fitting, light brown husk. Gently peel back a small part of the husk; the fruit should be firm and free of blemishes. The husks are inedible and should be removed before use. With husks on, tomatillos keep for about two weeks stored in a paper bag and refrigerated. When husked, the tomatillos require refrigeration within a sealed plastic bag or frozen (whole or sliced) within an airtight freezer bag.

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Tomatillos lend themselves to a variety of cooking methods such as blanching, roasting or grilling. Tomatillos are very easy to cook with, because they don’t need to be peeled or seeded. Make sure to rinse the tomatillo prior to cooking as its skin is covered by a sticky substance.

• Blanching: mellows the flavor of the fruit. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the whole tomatillos (with husks removed and rinsed) and boil for approximately 5 minutes or until soft. Drain and puree as directed by the recipe.

• Dry Roasting: will produce an earthy, nutty flavor. Place the tomatillos in a cast iron pan, turn heat to low and roast for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, turning occasionally.

• Grilling: direct heat over a hot fire brings out the sweet notes of the fruit. For a simple meal, cut the tomatillo into wedges and grill until they’re crisp-tender — a couple of minutes per side. Toss the grilled tomatillos with salsa and add marinated, grilled shrimp. Divide the mixture among freshly warmed tortillas and dinner is served.

Chopped pickled tomatillos also make a delicious garnish for tacos and quesadillas. Try this recipe for your next Cinco de Mayo fiesta.

Mexican Pickled Tomatillos

Makes 6 pint jars. Serves 48 (1/4 cup each).

All you need

6 pint-size (2-cup) canning jars or similar-size tempered-glass or heatproof-plastic containers with lids

2-1/2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed, cut into quarters or eighths (about 10 cups)

6 whole habanero peppers

3 to 6 whole peeled garlic, sliced

1 tablespoon cumin seed

3 cups distilled Hy-Vee white vinegar or cider vinegar

3 cups water

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sea salt

2 tablespoons sugar

All you do

1. Divide tomatillos among 6 pint-size (2-cup) canning jars or similar-size tempered-glass or heatproof-plastic containers with lids. Divide the habaneros, garlic slices and cumin seed evenly among the jars.

2. Combine vinegar, 3 cups water, salt and sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

3. Carefully fill jars (or containers) with brine to within 1/2 inch of the rim, covering the tomatillos completely. (Discard any leftover brine.)

4. Place the lids on the jars (or containers). Refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Nutrition facts per serving: 7 calories, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g monounsaturated fat, 0g cholesterol, 82mg sodium, 58mg potassium, 1g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 0g added sugars, 0g protein.

Carbohydrate Servings: 0 Exchanges: Free food

Source: adapted from Eating Well, Inc.