Tomatillo (or Green Tomato) Salsa

This is my all-time favorite salsa, from Cheryl and Bill Jamison's Border Cookbook. Chipotles give it a rich smoky flavor, caramelized onions give it a little sweetness, and the roasted tomatillos are tangy with a wonderful malty flavor. I didn't grow tomatillos in my garden this year, but I've got tons of green tomatoes, so I thought I'd try using them instead, and it turned out almost as good.

I've grown tomatillos in the past, and they are marvelous, sprawling, vigorous plants that thrive in poor soil and hot sun... the only problem is the pests that love them too (*see below for pest discussion - I don't want to ruin your appetite!)  Even with the pests, the tomatillo plants are so robust that I've still gotten a huge harvest every year I've grown them, so I highly recommend giving them a try. And then you can also make some delicious Verdolagas and Tomatillos Stewed with Pork.  If you don't have a garden, check the regular grocery store (where they may be expensive) or the Mexican grocery (where they're usually really cheap).

1 pound whole tomatillos (husks removed) or small green tomatoes
1 Tbs olive oil
1 small onion
1 Tbs vinegar
1 tsp chipotle powder or 1 canned chipotle in adobo (minced)
1 tsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro

Heat the broiler. Broil tomatillos in a single layer, turning occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until they are soft and brown in spots. Meanwhile, heat the oil and chop the onions - red or sweet onions are really nice. Fry them on medium heat until they are soft - I like to cook them until they are nice and golden brown for a rich, caramelized flavor. Cool the tomatillos, chop them coarsely, and add them to the onion. Add the vinegar - I like to use cider vinegar for its fruity flavor, but with the green tomatoes I tried malt vinegar to replace the malty flavor of the tomatillos. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and cook on low for a few more minutes to let the flavors mingle.

*Not many people grow tomatillos, so no one ever tells you what to watch out for. My major problem was the three-lined potato beetle, which most garden references call "not a significant pest" - ha! Their disgusting, slimy larvae ate most of the leaves off every one of my tomatillo plants. The good news is, they weren't remotely interested in anything else in my garden! If you're vigilant, you can control them with insecticidal soap. And then there are tiny worms that can infest the fruit - I haven't seen these myself, but the guys from Vida Verde Farm lost about 50% of their crop this year to them! On the other hand, their husks protect them from being eaten by grasshoppers, and they don't get those giant tomato hornworms.


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