What to do with tomatillos (Mexican green tomatoes)

Tomatillo kababs

Tomatillo kebabs

Tomatillos, also known as Mexican green tomatoes, are actually a relative of the gooseberry which grows fruit covered with a similar papery husk. But they behave very much like tomatoes in recipes while adding a tartness all their own. Another way they’re like tomatoes: last year’s crop will produce volunteer plants all over your garden, which is why I’ve been experimenting with the end of season gleanings over the past few weeks. Tomatillos are ready when they’re just beginning to yield to a squeeze instead of being hard as rocks. The husk is easy to remove (which you have to do before using) and keeps the fruit clean inside, even when they’ve spent a few days on the ground after most of the crop has been picked and the plants broken down.

My very favorite thing to do with tomatillos is to broil them on a skewer as part of a Middle Eastern-style mixed grill or shish kabab. Unlike tomatoes, they’ll stand up to high heat but then they wither appealingly on the plate for a flavor and taste counterpoint to the red or green peppers and sweet onions I also like to use. Tomatillos pair up well with pork in a Mexican chile verde stew, and I’d be willing to substitute then for tomatoes in most any savory slow-cooked dish. They’re firm when uncooked, but soon soften and break down just as tomatoes do.

And then of course there’s green salsa for chip-dipping and pouring on tacos and burritos. Diana Kennedy, my favorite Mexican cookbook author, has both cooked and uncooked green salsa recipes, each worth a try. I’ll be sharing some of these preps over the next few days, but grilled tomatillos on a skewer don’t need a recipe (other than letting them macerate a few minutes in the marinade you’ve used for other ingredients). Go ahead and make that tonight.

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