Here is another one of Randal Smathers’ ingenious VerMex menu items. Why do I say ingenious? Because when I was tying up and pruning my tomato plants the other week, a long overdue task at this point in the season, I knocked off a ton of unripe, green tomatoes in the process. Although this is a tomatillo recipe, like Randal suggests, I think the green tomatoes work just as well. I have never found a good use for green tomatoes  – more so at the end of the summer when the plants have seen the last of their days, and thanks to New England’s short tomato season, are left with fruit that never had enough time to ripen. But by growing tomatillos in a non-native region like Vermont, or utilizing the green tomatoes that some people might simply discard, I think  this salsa is the perfect combo of Vermont’s resourcefulness and Mexico’s flavors.

Tomatillo salsa

With the green tomatoes I found it necessary to greatly increase the honey to bring out their great, though not fully developed, flavor.

  • 1 pound tomatillos or green tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 small bunch cilantro
  • 1 small bunch parsley
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 poblano and/or Anaheim peppers or 4 dried ancho chiles
  • 1 tbsp. sugar or honey
  • ½ tbsp. salt
  • Oil
  • Bottled hot sauce (optional)
  • Optional thickening agent (1/4 cup flour or masa harina, 2 tbsp. corn starch, 1 small can tomato paste).

First prepare the peppers
If using reconstituted peppers, steep them in 1 cup boiling water until soft, discard seeds and stem and set aside in the boiling liquid. If using fresh peppers, char them over a gas burner, BBQ grill or under an oven broiler. Peel, discarding the charred outer skin, seeds and stems.

Next prepare the tomatillos (If using green tomatoes, simply chop and puree)
Remove the papery husks and rinse the tomatillos. Lightly score the tops, using a sharp knife to make an X. This will help keep the tomatillos from bursting and losing their seeds in the pot. Bring 2-3 quarts lightly salted water to a rolling boil, then add the tomatillos. Cook until soft, 5-10 minutes, then drain. Puree peppers, adding boiling liquid or water to get a sauce texture. Puree tomatillos. Do not puree them with the peppers, which take much longer to process. You want to leave the tomatillo seeds intact.

Chop the onion and herbs. Crush the garlic. Sweat the onion, herbs and garlic in the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot until soft and translucent. Add the pureed tomatillos and peppers, honey and salt. Simmer gently. If it is too bitter, add a little more honey to taste. A little extra cilantro at the end will brighten the color. Can be thickened or used as is as a salsa or sauce with meat or vegetables.