IN SEASON: Tomatillos
Because they're naturally packed with pectin (the stuff you mix into fruit to make jams and jellies), tossing a few diced tomatillos into a batch of chili or salsa will help thicken it—and add a nice, tart kick.
Sweeten the Deal
Raw tomatillos are best known for giving salsa verde its juicy, citrusy bite. But heat softens their acidity and brings out their sweetness, so they also shine cooked into sauces and stews.
Made in the Shade
Tomatillos look and taste a lot like tiny, tart green tomatoes and, in fact, they're related: Both belong to the nightshade family, along with chile peppers, eggplant, potatoes and (believe it or not!) tobacco.
Buy: Look for a husk and skin that is bright green, not yellow, which is a sign of age.
Store: Like tomatoes, raw tomatillos are firm but soften when cooked. Their husks keep them fresh, so don't peel them off prematurely. Whole tomatillos will keep about two weeks in your fridge's crisper. Want to keep them longer? Just peel and wash, then freeze them whole.
Prep: Most husks peel right off, but underneath there's a gluey residue you'll want to rinse before eating. A speedy trick: Cover tomatillos with boiling water, wait 10 seconds, then drain. Voilà! The husks—and all that sticky stuff—will slide away.
One to Grow On!
Purple tomatillos are pretty and sweet, but still rare in markets. Want a taste? Try growing your own! Forgiving, fruitful and a favorite of helpful pollinators like honeybees, the plants are a slam-dunk crop for novice gardeners. Purple enchiladas, anyone?
The age, in years, of a FOSSILIZED TOMATILLO recently discovered (still in its husk, no less) in Patagonia, Argentina. That's some seriously prehistoric produce!
Try These Ideas!
Fried Green Tomatillos
Cut 1 lb. tomatillos into 1/2-inch slices. In a bowl, combine 1 cup cornmeal and 1/2 tsp. paprika; season. In another bowl, beat 3 eggs. Dip tomatillos in egg, then cornmeal, pressing to make sure the coating adheres. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil over medium-high. Cook tomatillos, turning once, until crispy, about 3 minutes. Serve with chipotle mayo. Serves 4.
Tip: Snack on these or use 'em to make a next-level BLT!
Tangy Tomatillo Margarita
In a blender, puree 1 tomatillo and add to an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Stir in 2 oz. blanco tequila, 1 1/2 oz. triple sec, 1 oz. lime juice and 1/2 oz. simple syrup. Shake well, then strain into an ice-filled glass. Garnish with lime.
In a small bowl, whisk 1/4 cup EVOO, 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar and 1 tsp. sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add a handful of torn basil leaves and 8 quartered tomatillos. Toss well and season. Spoon mixture onto a plate and top with a small ball of burrata.
Tomatillos contain antioxidants called withanolides that are good for the plant and for people. The compounds taste so bad to most insects that they act as a bug repellent, and some research suggests they may have anti-inflammatory powers similar to aspirin. Next time a headache strikes, try some salsa instead!
Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi has a top-secret tomatillo tip: "I've made plenty of salsa verde, but their bright flavor is also great in South Asian stews and curries. Traditional? Nope. But they sure are yummy!"