As a self-proclaimed food blogger, people hold me to a pretty high standard when it comes to epicurean trivia. This is flattering, for sure, but it also means that I look like a complete dufus when I have no idea what they’re talking about. I’ll usually admit my naiveté, but sometimes my conversational counterpart sounds so confident that I know who/what/where the heck they’re talking about that I have no choice but to nod along in agreement.
This, I can handle. What’s really embarrassing is when someone, especially an older and wiser someone, leaves the night’s menu in my hands, or asks my advice on how to prepare something and I am just at a complete loss. Sure, I know how to cook, and my gracious taste testers say that I’m pretty good at it, but keep in mind, people, that I’ve only been doing this thing for a few years!
The other day, for example, cousin and granola artisan, Deborah, showed me the correct way to dice an onion and, dang, was she proud that she taught the food blogger something about cooking. Lest we forget, this woman has a culinary degree and used to run her own stand at the infamous Marin Farmer’s Market. Welp, this is what I get for shamelessly self-promoting on any and every possible social network. I’ve fashioned some mighty big shoes to fill, and if you’ve ever tried to run in too-big shoes, you know that it can be tough to keep up. Sometimes, it’s just better to roll with the punches.
Such was the case with the tomatillo. If I’m being honest, until very recently I was pretty sure this was just a fancy word for tomato. Like, this month, recently. Call me a poser, a sham, a good-for-nothin’, but tomatillos are new to me. Yeah, I’ve had plenty of tomatillo salsa at taquerias, but my brain was never like, “Hmm, I wonder why this salsa is not red like the others.” It just never crossed my apparently color blind mind.
So you can imagine that when Lucie, fellow WWOOFer at Bobcat Ridge Avocados, plucked a bunch of weird flower looking things to make tomatillo salsa, there was some cognitive dissonance going on in this head of mine. I helped her peel back the delicate paper-like leaves to reveal a little green sphere that looked not unlike a tomato. But unlike the tomatoes we were harvesting practically hourly, these guys were no succulent afternoon snack. Simmered though, the combination of tomatillos with all the fixins’ transformed into a decadent, sweet, and mild salsa.
I’ve been hooked ever since. I practically guzzled Lucie’s entire batch, then embellished Robin’s recipe at FlipJack, and was chasing the high all the way to Loló, a bangin’ Mexican tapas spot in San Francisco’s Mission district with perfectly spicy tomatillo salsa. Back in Los Angeles, I couldn’t wait to show off my newfound cooking skills, starting with this here recipe.
Over at Whole Foods (sorry TJ’s, this girl is moving on), the summer crops were waning, but there were a few sunny day treats that remained. Tomatillos were among my haul, along with a beautiful Delicata squash because, let’s face it – it may not look like fall in California, but the dog days are over.
Back to our lovely tomatillos, though. This was my first time making this salsa unassisted. I was Lucie-less and Robin-less with only my memory to inform my next move. Luckily, that month of farming stuck with me like you wouldn’t believe, so it wasn’t too tough to recall the major steps.
The result? I’m still hooked. This salsa is refreshing as ever. It’s the kind of stuff that makes you want to eat outside, with a beer in one hand and a salsa-topped tortilla chip in the other. It’s sweet, smooth, and fit for chips, rice, quesadillas, or you name it. I recommend that you make as much as possible and learn a thing or two about preserving. You’ll be thanking yourself in a few months whilst wondering if there’s anything else that grows on this good earth besides kale and squash.
2 handfuls fresh tomatillos
¼ yellow onion
12 sprigs cilantro
1 jalapeño pepper
Juice of ½ a lemon
Black pepper to taste
Remove tomatillos from their husks. Cut onion into chunks. Remove cilantro leaves from stems. Cut jalapeño into pieces, removing seeds.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until mixture is uniform and relatively smooth.
Heat salsa in a saucepan over medium heat (or whatever heat level keeps it simmering gently) for 10-15 minutes. Color will transform into a darker green and flavors will become more pronounced.
Remove from heat and refrigerate until cool. Serve with chips, over rice, or with quesadillas!