You've probably looked right at them dozens of times, those greenish, papery, lantern-like things in the bin next to the tomatoes at the market. And then you probably moved on.
They're called tomatillos and they are worth stopping for.
Tomatillos can be used raw or cooked much as you would a tomato. The berry inside the husk can range from marble- to plum-size and has solid, seedy flesh. Raw, they taste a bit like green apple with hints of lemon or lime, but cooking mellows the flavor.
Nutritionally speaking, tomatillos have roughly the same amount of vitamin C as a red tomato and a bit more potassium.
When selecting tomatillos choose smooth, green fruits (when they start to turn yellow they lose some of their tanginess), free of bruises and blemishes. The husks should be clean and dry.
To prepare tomatillos you will need to peel away the husk and wash away the sticky resin on the skin.
For a touch of tartness, consider adding chopped tomatillos to your favorite greens. Or to make a salad where they're more prominently featured, combine wedges of tomatillos and tomatoes with slivered red onion, then toss in a dressing made with extra-virgin olive oil and lime juice spiked with chopped cilantro and red pepper flakes.
This mellow salsa verde is made by puréeing char-grilled tomatillos, sweet onion and poblano chili peppers. The recipe can be made spicier or milder by varying the type of chili pepper you use.
Serve this green salsa with chips for dipping, or mash it up with avocado and additional lime juice for an easy guacamole.
To make huevos verde, melt some shredded Jack cheese on corn tortillas and top with a couple poached or fried eggs and a liberal amount of the salsa. Serve with black beans and additional warm corn tortillas for scooping.
How to make it
Start to finish: 50 minutes (10 minutes active)
Servings: 4 (1/2; cup each)
1 pound tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed
1 medium sweet onion, cut into 1/2;-inch-thick slices
1 small poblano chili pepper
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 to 2 teaspoons honey, to taste
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Heat a gas grill to high or light a charcoal fire.
Grill the tomatillos, onion slices and poblano, turning occasionally, until soft and charred, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the vegetables as they are ready. Set aside to cool for about 15 minutes.
Peel, seed and stem the poblano. Coarsely chop the onion. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tomatillos, onion, poblano, vinegar, lime juice, honey and salt. Pulse until the mixture is well blended but still a bit chunky. Serve warm or cold.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 87 calories; 14 calories from fat (16 percent of total calories); 2 grams fat (0 grams saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 0 milligrams cholesterol; 18 grams carbohydrate; 2 grams protein; 4 grams fiber; 218 milligrams sodium.