Living in California as I do, regular doses of Mexican food are a must. If I go a week without it, I get the shakes. It’s like salsa runs through my veins.
One of my favorite salsas is the green type, used for enchiladas and verdes, or to top tacos and salads. The base of green salsas is the tomatillo, a fruit that’s a staple of Mexican and Central American cooking.
Tomatillos are sometimes called a green tomato, although they’re really not the same at all. Unripe red tomatoes are a different genus of plant entirely.
Tomatillos grow within a papery husk that must be removed before cooking. Look for tomatillos that are firm and bright green for a tart flavor. The fruit mellows as it ripens to a yellow or red color.
Tomatillos are easily stored in their husks in the refrigerator for several weeks. Allow the air to get to them and don’t seal them in a plastic container or bag, lest they begin to spoil. You can also freeze them in chunks to use throughout the year.
When you’re ready to use your tomatillos, peel off the husk and wash the fruit to remove the sticky film that coats the fruit. Use tomatillos raw in fresh salsas, or roast them as we’ve done here. They’re the perfect replacement for unripe fruits in a fried “green tomato” recipe.
There being no end to tomatillo salsa recipes, I’m offering my vegan version of tomatillo soup, with cannellini beans standing in for chicken. Serve as a starter to a Mexican food meal, or enjoy a tangy bowl it on its own for a light lunch or supper.
Tomatillo soup with cannellini “chicken”
1 medium onion
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic
2/3 cup frozen corn
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco or pepper sauce, green or red
salt to taste
cilantro for garnish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel and wash tomatillos; cut in half and place cut side down on a baking sheet.
Peel and quarter onion. Deseed jalapenos and remove stems, being careful not to handle the seeds. (For goodness’ sake, don’t use your thumb to remove the seeds. If you do, your cuticles will burn for hours.) Add chunked onion and jalapenos to baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.
Add half the vegetable broth, garlic and roasted vegetables to a blender. Process on a medium speed until contents are chopped, but not emulsified. Pour contents of blender into a medium saucepan and add remaining broth, corn and cannellini beans. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add lemon juice, pepper sauce and salt to taste. Serve garnished with cilantro, and if desired, a dollop of sour cream and warm tortillas.