I began to see the exotic side of the tomatillo once in the US.
Growing up in Mexico, they were a standard at every market, part of our weekly mandado, present in our family meals at least half a dozen times a week: in salsa verde to pour on top of almost everything, in enchiladas, chilaquiles, bathing fish, covering a shredded meat and potato stew, and sometimes cactus paddles.
Think something like salt ... how odd it is to find a kitchen without salt?
Once we moved to Texas, the only place I could find them was in Latino stores. As the years moved on, there was no one I met without a Mexican connection who had ever cooked with a tomatillo or even dared to bring one home.
Sure, many people love salsa verde and eat it in restaurants or buy a jar at the store, but few know that its star ingredient, is the tomatillo.
Ok, I get it.
It's hard to tell what a gorgeous creature the tomatillo is from the outside. With its papery husk specked with dust that sticks to the sticky and seemingly mossy skin... So fifteen years later, now that they are not only in Latino stores but also in mainstream ones, its no surprise to see that not many people place them in their baskets.
But, husked and rinsed, stripped down to their natural glory, tomatillos are a stunner. Bright and crisp, smooth and shinny, with a firmer flesh than the tomato and with an unmatchable tart flavor, they are stars undercover waiting to be discovered.
Amazing it is, that I realized how unique they are once outside of Mexico. Moreover, how versatile they can be. Not only for salty spins, but for sweet ones too. And always, so easy to use. I've now used them cooked and raw, in sauces, stews, salads and one of my favorites: Jam.
The brilliant and adventurous Mexican Chef Enrique Olvera first introduced me to the sweet spin of tomatillos, when he came to DC to cook for a special event at the Institute. He and his sous chef, prepared a quick tomatillo jam made with water, vinegar and sugar and served it with a variety of cheeses and crackers. Heavenly!
Playing with his idea, being a fan of the combination of the tartness of the tomatillo with the tangy taste from citrus, after quite a few tries I found what has now become a staple in our home. A tomatillo and lime jam.
All you do is dice those tomatillos, place them in a medium sauce pan along with the sugar, and the lime rind. You can add the rind in a long single piece or you can cut it into little pieces, which I am now getting fond of as you can enjoy those delicious bites later on.
Cover with water...
Add a pinch of salt, to balance things out in that pan...
Bring it all to a medium simmer, and let it thicken until it has a thin and loose jam consistency. Keep an eye on it as it does, and stir here and there... Don't let it thicken too much because it will thicken as it cools.
That's all there is to it!
See how amazed I am by its beauty and flavor, that I can't help but keep on adding more and more photos in here...
Well, I also love that set of plates my sister Alisa gave me for my birthday and think they photograph so beautifully.
You can have the jam with a piece of toast as you sip your morning coffee (fine, or tea too...), spoon it over a piece of pound cake, serve it as an exotic side to your appetizer cheese platter...
Or, why not? Just spoon it right into your mouth. Like I do. You will bite not only those delicious tomatillo seeds covered in that sweet, tart, tangy jam, but you will also get those irresistibly bitter caramelized pieces of lime rind.
The beauty of the tomatillo, becomes increasingly exposed...
TOMATILLO AND LIME JAM
Mermelada de Tomate Verde con Limón
Makes about 1 1/4 cups
1 lb tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
4 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
Rind of a lime
A pinch of salt
Place all of the ingredients in a saucepan set over medium-high heat. Let the mixture come to a simmer and stir occasionally, letting it cook until it has thickened and achieved a soft jam consistency.