Health & Fitness

Tomatillos make any dish a tangy surprise

Think of tomatillos, with their flirty, papery husks and tart taste, as the sassy little cousins of beefsteak and Roma tomatoes.

Jack Staub, a Pennsylvania vegetable gardener and author, uses them in an Indian-inspired mix with okra. Chef Thomas Schnetz batters and fries them much like fried green tomatoes, at his Oakland, Calif., restaurant. And at Norman's restaurant in Orlando, Fla., Norman Van Aken pairs a tomatillo-based mojo verde sauce with grilled pork.

That most people know tomatillos only for their role in Mexican salsas is understandable. The fruit, which also is related to the cape gooseberry, has been grown in Mexico and Guatemala. It has been used by Aztec and Mayan cooks for thousands of years. You'll now find them in India, Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

Cooks should choose the smooth, green fruits (when they start turning yellow they'll lose some of their characteristic tang), free of bruises, blemishes and dried, shriveled husks.

Tomatillos are very good sources of dietary fiber, vitamin C, niacin, potassium and manganese.

A basic Mexican-accented green salsa of tomatillos, white onion, chiles and cilantro may be used as a dip or seasoning for tacos, eggs, fish, etc. Simmer that sauce a bit, then incorporate in recipes for enchiladas and chilaquiles.

Indian-Style Okra and Tomatillos

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 lb. tomatillos, husked, washed, quartered

3/4 lb. okra, sliced 1/2-inch thick

2 large plum tomatoes, chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded, minced

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat; add onion and turmeric. Cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Add tomatillos and okra; cook over medium-high heat, stirring until browned and vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, jalapeno, ginger and water; season with salt. Simmer over low heat until okra is tender and most of liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Add cilantro. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 92 calories, 49 percent of calories from fat, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 11 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 201 mg sodium, 4 g fiber

The Wichita Eagle—06/01/10

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

1 1/2 lbs. fresh tomatillos or 3 cans (11 oz.) tomatillos

5 fresh serrano chiles

3 garlic cloves, unpeeled

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons coarse salt

Preheat broiler.

If using fresh tomatillos, remove husks and rinse under warm water to remove stickiness. If using canned tomatillos, drain and measure out 2 cups. Broil chiles, garlic and fresh tomatillos (do not broil canned) on rack of a broiler pan 1 to 2 inches from heat, turning once, until tomatillos are softened and slightly charred, about 7 minutes. Peel garlic and pull off tops of chiles. Puree all ingredients in a blender. Serve with tortilla chips or use as a salsa with grilled steak, chicken or pork.

The Wichita Eagle—06/01/10