Someone could have told me “salsa verde” means “sticky tomato.”

9 Aug

I went to the U Street Farmer’s Market on Saturday and spent $30 on beautiful produce. Of course, I always have lofty thoughts of all the cooking I will do upon returning home with my treasures, then generally lose steam once it comes time to wash and prep everything.

Don’t get me wrong – I love to cook and (if I may flatter myself) think I’m pretty good at it. But something about prepping veggies just takes the steam out of me.

This weekend, facing a week without travel (how novel!), I decided to be a bit adventurous. So in addition to the staples (garlic, onions, potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, basil, bell peppers, arugula, nectarines, and blackberries), I went for a wildcard: tomatillos.

I couldn’t help it. I’m a huge fan of salsa verde, and I’ve never cooked with these little fellas. Plus, they were clearly in season, so if ever there WERE a time to experiment, it was now.

I laid waste to the rest of my finds almost immediately, cooking up shrimp pesto, garlic crostinis topped with bruschetta and a blue cheese heirloom salad on the side for my friends Mike and Betsy. But these damn tomatillas have been hanging out, taunting me with their papery husks, screaming, “Do me! Do me!” like an annoying 1990s rap song.

So tonight, I decided to do them.

Again, I consider myself fairly “ept” in the kitchen. (You might claim that’s not a word. You might also want to read the brilliant teen book “The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks” in which the protagonist creates a vocabulary rule, in which one can coin a word that is the opposite of its accepted antonym: in this case, I’m meaning the opposite of “inept.”)

Anyway… am I the only person in (North) America who didn’t realize that tomatillos are sticky? You pull that husk off, and DAMN. They are like rubber cement balls. The husk kept sticking to my fingers. The phrase that comes to mind (I believe originally coined by attorneys to describe difficult clients one can’t manage to get rid of) is: a Three-Fingered Booger. Sadly, I can’t find a YouTube video to illustrate this concept, but think about it – you know what I mean.

And another tip for culinary amateurs: If you’re seeding a jalapeno, don’t do anything else until you’ve had a chance to thoroughly wash your hands. After peeling the tomatillos, I seeded a jalapeno – and washed some blueberries – and threw a big handful of said berries in my mouth… apparently along with a few jalapeno seeds. HOLY HOTNESS.

For the love of all things dignified: one fruit at a time. (And an ancillary tip from my dad, who was washing the knife my mom had used to seed jalapenos with a few years ago and somehow managed to drop it, such that it landed with the tip – dripping with pepper juice – imbedded in the nail of his big toe: wear closed-toed shoes when handling knives. Or else.)

I’m relieved to report that this tale has a happy ending: the Salsa Verde is so amazing that I think Alan’s neighbor from Alabama would pay it his highest compliment, and “Smack his momma!”

Seriously. I dipped my pinky in it while it was cooling and I forgot what guacamole was. “Guaca- who?”

Here’s the recipe I made up on the fly:

  • Six ripe tomatillos, peeled and roasted (35 minutes on 400 degrees)
  • 1/3 fresh jalapeno – seeded and roasted (ditto)
  • 1 clove of fresh raw garlic – pureed
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh cilantro – like the equivalent of 7 heads of Barbie’s hair
  • Juice from 1 fresh lime
  • Dollop of olive oil
  • Pinch of sugar

Toss it all in a blender. Voila.

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One Response to “Someone could have told me “salsa verde” means “sticky tomato.””

  1. popdialectic August 10, 2010 at 8:25 pm #

    Tomatillo >> jalapeno >> blueberries … it sounds like you kind of tarred and feathered your mouth.

    Save me a little to taste!

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