Is it just me or is this summer going by ridiculously quickly? I feel like I’m constantly struggling to keep up with all the wonderfully delicious fresh produce in season right now! And I’m fortunate enough to work RIGHT by the Union Square Greenmarket, a huge NY farmer’s market that constantly reminds me I better get to the kitchen, stat.
In my opinion, one of the best summer meals (and I may be influenced here by my Mexican-food obsessed fiancé) is THE TACO. Yes, the article there is deliberate – in our household, tacos deserve the same amount of reverence and respect as The Macaron or The Rack of Lamb. (Although lamb doesn’t actually get any respect since we don’t eat meat.) But anyway, why is The Taco a perfect summer meal? For starters, you can pretty much make anything into a taco, so it’s a fantastic vessel for keeping up with all the delicious produce that keeps appearing in the summertime. Secondly, there’s not that much cooking involved – you may have to quickly sauté some veggies and heat up your tortillas, but you won’t have the stove/oven on for too long – a definite blessing in the summertime. Thirdly, you get to make your own salsa, which in my opinion is what makes a taco into The Taco.
While homemade salsa in all forms is absolutely delicious, I have always been partial to tomatillo salsa. I love the tangy, pungent, citrusy flavor of The Tomatillo. Okay, sorry – I’m overusing the article trick now :p But seriously, if you haven’t tried tomatillos, you must! They are related to tomatoes, and are used quite often in Mexican cooking. You may have heard them referred to as “husk tomatoes,” since they grow inside a husk – this must be removed before you use them. After removing the husk (and any stems that you see), you’ll also need to quickly rinse the tomatillos, since they will feel slightly sticky. But once husked and rinsed, they are ready to go! You can roast, sauté, eat ’em raw, whatever strikes your fancy! While some recipes call for seeding tomatoes, you will NEVER have to seed a tomatillo – just another of their many benefits.
Tomatillo salsas come in both raw and cooked form – I prefer the cooked because the flavor is deeper. My recipe for tomatillo salsa does involve the oven (ever so briefly!) but I think you’ll find that it is worth it. It’s tangy and pleasantly spicy but also mild enough to use as an enchilada sauce (yes, I know, enchiladas involve the oven as well…). Mix it into your favorite grains for quick and dirty “Mexican Rice” or “Mexican Quinoa.” Pour it over nachos, or skip the nachos and just eat it with chips. But please, above all else, use it on The Taco.
This recipe is super, duper easy! Roast some tomatillos with onion and garlic until they’re soft, then purée in a blender with some raw garlic, jalapeño, lime, and cilantro. Voilà! That’s it! You’ll never go back to store-bought salsa again.
A couple notes about the recipe:
-This will yield 3 delicious cups of salsa.
-As always, feel free to tailor the spice level to suit your preferences. I normally taste a small bit of the jalapeño to see how hot it is, and then decide how many seeds and veins to leave in.
Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
- 20 ounces tomatillos
- ¼ of a large Spanish onion, cut into two pieces
- 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- Olive oil, for roasting
- 1 peeled garlic clove
- ½ jalapeño, mostly deveined and deseeded, leaving a few seeds in for heat.
- ½ teaspoon celtic sea salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, small stems okay
Line a sheet tray with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 375°. Take the husks off the tomatillos (along with any stems you see) and rinse them in a colander until they are no longer sticky. Place the tomatillos face down on the lined sheet tray, along with the halved ¼ Spanish onion and the 4 unpeeled garlic cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and make sure everything is well coated. Place in the oven for 20-30 minutes (depending on how large your tomatillos are), until the tomatillos are soft to the touch and slightly wrinkled. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Peel the garlic and then transfer everything to a blender. Add the cilantro, lime juice, raw garlic, jalapeño, and salt and blend until smooth.