The tart, almost citrusy flavor of the tomatillo tempers with cooking. Below, grilling tomatillos over an open flame to produce charred skins gives this salsa a woodsy, smoky undertone, while brief stovetop cooking helps the flavors of all the ingredients meld together.
Tomatillos are high in a pectin-like substance, so sauces made with them thicken slightly when refrigerated.
Tomatillos also vary widely in flavor, with some being intensely sour. If that’s the case, add a teaspoon or two of sugar to mellow the acidity in the salsa below.
When picking tomatillos or selecting them at a market, choose firm, bright green fruits with tightly attached husks. Tomatillos begin to yellow as they move past their prime ripeness.
1 lb. tomatillos
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup sweet white onion, diced
1 T. minced fresh garlic
1 hot pepper, seeds and membranes removed, minced (optional)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
Tomatillos: Peel off the husks and rinse well; pat dry with a paper towel (do not peel the green skin or remove the seeds). Prepare a very hot gas or charcoal grill (low heat will turn the tomatillos mushy before charring the skins). Grill the whole tomatillos, turning frequently, until skins are blackened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from grill. When cool enough to handle, remove the stems and stem base and slice in half.
Salsa: Place the grilled tomatillo halves and the water in a blender or food processor; puree until smooth. Pour mixture into a medium-sized saucepan and add the remaining ingredients. Stir well to combine, and heat over medium-high heat to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions just begin to become translucent but are still somewhat crisp, about 5 to 8 minutes. Chill before serving with your favorite corn chips. Makes about 2 cups.