Tomatillos are suddenly giving jalapeno peppers a run for the money as the primary Latin star of my kitchen. Lying in size somewhere between the cherry and the beefsteak, green and slightly sticky to the touch, they are strikingly appealing yet sadly hidden away by a curious and lackluster greenish-brown husk. Also known as the “husk tomato” or “jamberry,” the tomatillo has been a staple of Mexican and Guatemlan cuisine for centuries, both cooked and raw, primarily in sauces to amp up the flavor of the meal and to offset the flavor of any hot peppers included in a recipe.
A “Day of the Dead” hot sauce collection found its way under our Christmas tree this year, courtesy of MG. I added Serrano pepper sauce to the tomatillos below, but I will permit equal time to MG’s new favorite, Scotch Bonnet sauce. The Scotch Bonnet pepper is often mistaken for the Habanero and is one of the hottest peppers in the world, which means I will eventually come to worship at its altar as well. Used primarily in Caribbean dishes, Scotch Bonnets are a must for any Jamaican jerk sauce. A dab to the tongue initiates with a zippy tang followed immediately by an intense blaze that lives up to its heat rating of 100,000 – 350,000 Scoville units. By comparison, a jalapeno rates just 2,500 to 8,000.
Tomatillos may be used raw in salsas or salads or cooked for sauces. Cooking enhances the flavor and softens its skin, but the result is a soupy consistency since the fruit collapses after a few minutes. Still wrapped in their husks, the little devils could add a bit of decoration to your table, but other than that, the husks are useless and must be peeled off before throwing the tom-toms into any dish.
Aside from their eyepopping tanginess, tomatillos pack a nutritional punch as well. One medium raw tomatillo contains only 11 calories, but carries 91 mg. of potassium, 4 mg. of vitamin C, 2.4 mg of calcium, 2.38 mg. of folic acid, and 39 IU of vitamin A.
For the tomatillo sauce:
- 1 pound fresh tomatillos
- 1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
- 1 white onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 tbsp Serrano pepper sauce (Day of the Dead)
Peel the husks off the tomatillos and boil in salted water for ten minutes. Drain all but 1/2 cup of the liquid, and puree the tomatillos, liquid and the rest of the ingredients until desired consistency is reached
For the guacamole:
- 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 medium white onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Anaheim pepper
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup of lime juice
- 6-8 ripe and unbruised avocados
- 1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper to taste
Mix all the ingredients except the avocados by hand in a bowl or in a food processor. Just before serving, peel and coarsely mash the avocados. Stir in the tomato mixture, add salt and pepper and serve immediately.