Friday, October 8, 2010

Salsa Verde

If you are lucky, you now have ripe tomatoes and tomatillos rolling in at a rapid rate. You probably also still have some green tomatoes on the plants, unless you have been hardhearted and practical enough to pull your tomatoes out and make room for your winter garden. Here in Portland, our warm fall days have been the only warm days we've had all summer, and tomatoes only just started to get ripe, so I have not had the heart to pull the plants out!

I would like to share with you my general recipe for tomatillo salsa. It is very general because the measurements depend entirely on what I have on hand. It works out every time for me and I believe that it will do the same for you.

You will need a grill (we have a little gas grill) and a blender for this recipe.

1-2 pounds of fresh tomatillos, husked and rinsed
A few green tomatoes, if desired
1-2 ripe yellow tomatoes
Several mild green or red peppers, such as bell peppers, gypsy peppers, pasilla peppers, or Italian peppers
A few hotter chilies, such as jalapeno, serrano, or whatever you happen to have--or use a pinch of powdered hot chili
1 large or 2 small onions
1-2 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled
1 small bunch of cilantro, including tender stems
Lime to taste (usually I feel that it's not necessary so go easy)
Salt and pepper

Heat up the grill. Core the tomatoes and if they are large, cut them in half. Cut stems off of peppers, and take out the seeds. With the hot peppers, cut off the stems with a little bit of flesh attached and touch this little bit of stem-end pepper flesh to your tongue. You must check the hotness of each pepper to decide how many to put in. If they are milder, put in plenty, but if you get a really hot pepper, be careful! Even one little super-hot pepper can make the whole batch too spicy for some people (like me). Peel and thickly slice the onion. If desired, push some toothpicks through the side of the onion slices to keep the rings together on the grill.

Throw the whole tomatillos, halved tomatoes, peppers, and onion slices on the grill. Turn them every couple of minutes until they have grill marks and are getting soft--it is usually really fast, maybe 8 minutes total. As individual pieces of vegetable get done, throw them directly into the blender, until all the vegetables are in there. Turn off the grill. Toss the garlic into the blender too, and some salt. If the blender is more than half full, dump some of the vegetables into a bowl. Turn on the half-full blender (you should do the hot-stuff-in-the-blender protocol which is to take out the middle of the blender top to let hot air our and put a folded dishtowel on top of that to prevent a hot blender explosion) and whiz until smooth (salsa verde usually doesn't have chunks). Add more vegetables and blend. If the blender gets too full, pour some salsa into a bowl. Add the cilantro, including a few inches of tender stems, to the salsa in the blender and whiz again. Add the cilantro salsa to the salsa in the bowl and stir. Taste and add more salt and some lime to balance flavors to your liking.

This salsa is great with chips, in a quesadilla or burrito, or used as enchilada sauce. You can add a bunch to the broth for tortilla soup. It freezes well if you make more than you can use in a week!

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