Posts Tagged With: New Southwest Cookibook

Versatile Tomatillo Salsa

Salsa Verde is the perfect addition to a tostada.

Salsa Verde is the perfect addition to a tostada.

When I was interviewing chefs for my book The New Southwest Cookbook back in 2005, tomatillos were the vegetable du jour — every chef had them on the menu, usually “blackened” or roasted to heighten the flavor.  I gained new respect for how versatile they are.

I planted six tomatillo plants in August and hoped for a plentiful harvest, I even dreamed about making enough green salsa to can or freeze. Alas, my homegrown tomatillos were so tiny they weren’t worth the trouble and I ended up buying tomatillos grown by a farmer who had a better technique.

My homegrown tomatillos next to commercial

My homegrown tomatillos next to commercial

In Mexico the tomatillo is called tomate verde, which means “green tomato.” However, tomatillos are not just small, underripe tomatoes, but a distinct vegetable in their own right. Tomatillos are the size of an apricot and covered with a papery husk. They are meatier and less juicy inside than a tomato.  Tomatillos are an essential part of Mexican cuisine and have been since the Aztecs domesticated them. Most tomatillos are harvested slightly underripe when then have a tart, slightly lemony flavor that adds zip to salsas.  As they fully ripen they turn more golden and become sweeter.

Tomatillos are the main ingredient in the classic salsa verde which includes tomatillos, sliced green onions, green chiles of some variety, garlic and cilantro.  Salsa verde can be served raw or very lightly cooked. Of course, you can always put your own spin on salsa verde by using the herbs you have fresh in your garden.

To prepare tomatillos, remove the husk and rinse off the stickly substance on the skin. Rub them with a little oil and then put them under the broiler until they are soft and just slightly brown.

Roast the tomatillos until soft.

Roast the tomatillos until soft.

I love the flavor of poblano chiles in anything, so I roasted a couple of those while the tomatillos were cooling.  When their skins were charred on all sides, I put them in a paper bag to sweat for about 10 minutes (OK, 5 minutes, I was impatient).  This makes them easy to peel.  Also take off the stem and the seeds.

Nicely charred poblano chiles.

Nicely charred poblano chiles.

Next it is time to get creative.  Put your tomatillos, skin and all into the blender with some sliced green onions, some peeled garlic cloves, and the peeled chiles. If you want a little more heat, add a half or whole jalapeno, chopped. (And of course you remember to use gloves while chopping the jalapeno and don’t touch your eyes.)  Add some chopped cilantro. I had some lovely fresh basil, so I added that as well. Blend well until you have a nice smooth consistency.  The chef at Medizona, a top Scottsdale restaurant, added a little apple juice to mellow out the tartness.

 

Blend together tomatillos, chiles, onions, garlic and herbs.

Blend together tomatillos, chiles, onions, garlic and herbs.

So now you have this wonderful salsa.  How to use it?  Try it on tacos or tostadas (photo top of post) or as a sauce for chicken, pork chops or even shrimp.

Salsa Verde on broiled chicken.

Salsa Verde on broiled chicken.

Charboiled Tomatillo Sauce from Medizona

Feel free to vary the amounts in this recipe.  As they say, “for reference only.”

1/4 pound tomatillos

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 poblano chiles

1/2 jalapeno (optional)

3 green onions, sliced

1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves

5 cloves garlic, peeled

1/4 cup apple juice

Salt and pepper to taste.

1. Remove husks from tomatillos, wash and rub with oil. Put under boiler until soft and slightly browned. Let cool.

2. Broil or grill poblano chiles until all sides are charred. Sweat in paperbag until skins remove easily. Peel and deseed.

3. Combine all ingredients in a blender and whirl until smooth.  If using on hot food, heat in a saucepan before serving.

 

And just for fun, here’s a garnish tip I learned from Chef Janos Wilder. Carefully loosen the husk from tomatillos, peel them back and you have a lovely flower. They are a great addition to a cheese plate or relish tray for a party.

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For more great Southwestern recipes using local ingredients or fruits and vegetables from the wild, check out my cookbooks Cooking the Wild Southwest (University of Arizona), The Prickly Pear Cookbook (Rio Nuevo Press), or The New Southwest Cookbook (Rio Nuevo Press). 

 

Categories: Cooking, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Southwest Twist on Mac ‘n Cheese

Green Chile Macaroni gives a Southwest twist to everybody's comfort food.

Green Chile Macaroni gives a Southwest twist to everybody’s comfort food.

My husband is good at making breakfast — coffee, fruit, toast. And he can put together a salad if I have plenty of veggies in my garden or the fridge. But recently he decided he should learn how to actually cook something, and we decided on macaroni and cheese. From scratch, not out of a box. I looked in all my old standard cookbooks: The Joy of Cooking (both the 1964 and 1997  versions); How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman, and The New Basics by Rosso and Lukins. Ultimately, I decided the best recipe was in my own New Southwest Cookbook. I didn’t devise the recipe; it came from Chef Robert McGrath at the Roaring Forks Restaurant in Scottsdale.

To me the special flavor comes from the poblano chiles. I think they have a better flavor than the typical Anaheims. Frequently, but not always, they are less hot while still giving a great chile flavor. You must roast and puree them first. If you have a grill, roast them there. Otherwise, the broiler on your oven will do. The trick is to the get the skin nicely charred but not to burn the thick juicy chile walls.

These chiles are charred on one side. I have turned them to blacken another side.

These chiles are charred on one side. I have turned them to blacken another side.

Skin is easily removed after steaming.

Skin is easily removed after steaming.

Open chiles and remove seeds.

Open chiles and remove seeds.

Once the seeds are removed, puree the poblanos in a blender or food processor and set them aside.

Put some water to boil for the macaroni. Any shape will do, but I used the classic elbow-shaped. While the water is boiling and then the macaroni is cooking, you will have time to grate the cheese, and chop and saute the red pepper, onion, garlic  and corn. Use can use fresh corn cut from the cob or just canned works also.

Drain the macaroni.

Drain the macaroni.

When the macaroni is tender, return it to the pot and stir in all the ingredients. Last will be the cream. The recipe calls for heavy cream, but I used half-and-half. When I was collecting recipes for The New Southwest Cookbook, I discovered that lots of butter and cream are the professional chefs’ secret ingredients. THAT is why everything they make tastes so good.

Stir in the chile and other vegetables.

Stir in the chile and other vegetables.

Ford tastes for seasoning. It might need salt.

Ford tastes for seasoning. It might need salt.

Here’s the recipe.  It is supposed to be four servings, and it is. But everybody usually wants seconds so doubling the recipe makes sense.

Green Chile Macaroni  (Makes 4 servings)

1/4 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup sweet corn kernels

1/4 cup  diced red onion

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

1 teaspoon corn oil

2 cups  cooked macaroni

1/2  to 3/4 cup puree of roasted, peeled poblano chile

2/3 cup  grated cheese (hot pepper jack, cheddar or mixture)

1/4 cup heavy cream

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste

 

Sauté the red bell pepper, corn, red onion, and garlic in the oil in a heavy pan.  Add the macaroni, poblano puree, and  cheese and stir until cheese is melted. Fold in the heavy cream.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Find more great recipes with a Southwest flair in The New Southwest Cookbook, The Prickly Pear Cookbook, and Cooking the Wild Southwest

Categories: Cooking, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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