Tomatillos give fresh spin to hearty dish

Tomatillos are frequently referred to as Mexican green tomatoes. The green orbs have a parchment-paper husk, and once removed, the surface is sticky, requiring the cook to wash well to remove the residue.

Today's recipe for beef with beans and tomatillos combines lean beef eye of round and reduced-sodium pinto beans in a slow cooker to create a soupy broth with a piquant kick. Typically added to sauces, soups and stews, tomatillos are rich in vitamin A and contain a good amount of vitamin C.

Cooking tip: Beef eye of round is a very lean cut of meat. You may find that no fat collects on the vegetables or liquid.

Serving tip: If a thicker, chili-like dish is preferred, set the cover ajar during the last 15 to 20 minutes on the high setting so it cooks down a little.

Beff With Beans and Tomatillos

1 to 1 1/2 lbs. lean beef eye of round, cut into 1 to 1 1/2-inch cubes

4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

3 to 4 drops hot pepper sauce

2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped, plus additional for garnish, optional, divided

9 to 10 tomatillos, husks removed, washed and coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon dry minced garlic

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro plus additional for garnish, divided

1/4teaspoon pepper

2 cans (16 oz. each) reduced-sodium pinto beans, rinsed and drained

2 whole wheat pita breads, warmed and sliced into wedges, optional

Chopped onion or green onion, optional, for garnish

Place beef cubes in zip-top plastic food bag; add Worcestershire sauce and hot pepper sauce, seal and toss to coat.

Place 2 chopped tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, jalapeno peppers, 3 tablespoons cilantro, and pepper into a medium-sized slow cooker. Pour beef, with any collected Worcestershire sauce mixture, over tomato mixture. Cover and cook on low setting 7 to 9 hours, or until beef is done and tender.

Lift beef out of slow cooker, place in bowl, cover and keep warm. If any fat collects over vegetables and liquid, skim fat to remove. Carefully ladle vegetables and liquid into a blender or food processor. (Any time you blend a hot liquid, remove the center from the cover of the blender to vent and allow hot steam to safely escape.) Process or blend until smooth. Pour puree back into slow cooker. Stir in beef and beans. Cover and cook on high setting 30 minutes.

To serve, ladle into bowls and accompany each with wedges of pita bread, if desired. Garnish each serving with a sprinkling of fresh minced cilantro, chopped tomato and chopped onion, if desired. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Per serving, based on 4 servings, with pita bread: 540 calories (30 percent from fat), 18 grams total fat (7 grams saturated), 69 milligrams cholesterol, 58 grams carbohydrates, 38 grams protein, 453 milligrams sodium, 12 grams dietary fiber.

The Wichita Eagle—10/27/09