I waited with great anticipation to get some bags of tomatillos. I knew that they’d arrive at some point in our CSA box and, this past week, there they were, amidst an array of collard greens, potatoes, and shallots. They came in a plastic mesh bag, like the ones you find mussels or clams stored in at your local grocery store.
When I took them out of their pouch, it felt strange to hold them. We’re obviously out of summer, but these little guys feel as if their meant to be consumed in warmer climates amid lighter fare. I wondered if this was the wrong time for me to be blogging about them; that I should instead resort to squash and potatoes.
Tomatillos do happen to be in season, which ranges from May to November, so it’s not like it’s the craziest thing that I’m writing about them. And, you know what, even if you don’t make this recipe right now, one day you’ll be searching for a way to prepare these green delights and you’ll know exactly where to turn.
Now, if you have never seen or heard of a tomatillo before, here’s a little background info: The tomatillo is a staple in Mexican and Guatemalan cuisine, but their roots stem from the Aztecs, who were the first to cultivate it. They are the shape and color of a small unripe tomato, but are less tart and more citrusy in flavor. Because of this, they pair nicely in spicier dishes.
The tomatillo has a thin husk that surrounds it, giving it the appearance of a small gourd. In fact, you may see it referred to as a “husk-tomato”. When preparing the tomatillo, you will want to remove this outer shell.
There are a number of ways to cook tomatillos, but my favorite is actually to have them raw. In their most perfect form, they will be a little sweet and less tart. As mentioned above, they pair wonderfully with hot peppers, so salsa might be one direction to go in. I, however, wanted to incorporate it into my dinner, so instead I made a spicy pesto: pine nuts, garlic, cilantro, a jalapeno, a bit of lime juice, and some chopped up tomatillos. It was a burst of bright flavors that was much needed with this gloomy fall weather.
Fettuccine with Tomatillo and Cilantro Pesto
1 lb fettucine
1 lb tomatillo, husked and quartered
2 cups packed cilantro, washed and dried
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 jalapeno, seeds removed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
Kosher salt, to taste
Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.
While it is cooking, you can make the pesto. Add the jalapeno, pine nuts and garlic to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Next, add the cilantro, 3/4 of the tomatillo, lime juice, and a little salt and run the processor. While this is happening, drizzle in the olive oil. Season with some more salt and pepper, if necessary.
Toss the pasta with the pesto and taste for seasoning. Serve with some chopped tomatillo on top and some toasted pine nuts.