Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Vegetable this Week: Tomatillos

By Chef Caleb Crets

Tomatillos are covered by a paper-like husk.
Tomatillos resemble a green tomato, except they are covered by a paper-like husk. They are thought to have originated in South America. When you cut one open, you’ll see that they have a dense flesh with a lot of tiny seeds which allows them to spread like a weed if the fruit drops off the plant and is left behind. They are a plant of the nightshade family and have many names such as husk tomato or green tomato.

Honey bee attracted to bright yellow blossoms assists in
pollination of the tomatillo plant.
We start tomatillos in the green house before transplanting them to the field about 4 weeks later. In the field, we put stakes in between the plants to support them as they grow. Each week the crew “ties” the growing tomatillo plants to keep the plant growing upward and keep the plants off the ground. Each week they grow about a foot (That’s about 2 inches a day!) until they get to be massive plants over 6 feet tall with a mess of stems and leaves that make it feel like a tomatillo jungle when you walk through the field. They aren’t bothered by too many insects, but they do attract a big black and tan bumble bee which likes to collect pollen from the abundance of yellow blossoms. When it’s time to harvest, the crew picks by feel, looking for the tomatillos that have filled their husks.
Tomatillo plants tower over Luis 
Tomatillos are commonly used to make salsa verde, but they can also be used in other types of sauces, moles, soups, stews, marinades and salads. They can be eaten raw or cooked. You’ll find they have a tangy, fruity flavor and a soft, smooth texture when cooked. You may also notice they have a lot of natural pectin that helps to thicken the sauce. Tomatillos are best stored at about 50°F, but can be stored on your counter for several days or in a paper bag in the refrigerator. Remove the husk before using and wash to remove the sticky film on the fruit. If you aren’t ready to use your tomatillos this week, you can remove the husk and pop them in the freezer in their raw form.

Fried Tomatillo Frittata
Recipe adapted from Deborah Madison’s book Vegetable Literacy.

Serves 4
3 medium to large or 6 small tomatillos, sliced ⅓-inch thick
½ cup fine corn meal or flour seasoned with salt & pepper
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
6 eggs
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 Tbsp sweet onion, minced
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. On the stove-top, preheat an oven-proof skillet over medium heat and add 2 Tbsp oil. Dredge the tomatillo slices in the cornmeal or flour and pan-fry until golden brown on one side. Flip the slices over and brown the other side. You want them golden, but not mushy. Remove them from the pan and put them on a plate lined with paper towels or a rack.

2. Wipe out the pan to remove the oil you used to fry the tomatillos in. Add the remaining 1-2 Tbsp oil and return the pan to the stove. Decrease the heat of the burner to low.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until they are a little foamy on top. Add the parsley, onions and cheese. Pour the eggs into the skillet, season with a little salt and pepper. Place the fried tomatillo slices on top. Shake the pan gently a few times to settle the eggs. Cook on the stove top for a few minutes until you start to see the eggs set around the edges. Put the pan into the oven and continue to bake until the top of the frittata is lightly brown and the eggs are completely set.

4. Cut into wedges and serve as is or top with fresh corn relish or tomato slices.

Corn & Tomatillo Pizza with 
Fresh Tomatoes & Basil
by Andrea Yoder

Yield: 4 servings
15 ounces pizza dough (enough to make a 12-14 inch pizza)
1½ cups fresh corn kernels (from about 2 ears)
1½ cups tomatillos, large dice (husks removed)
3-4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
½ + ¼ tsp salt
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan or sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp garlic, minced
2 tsp sunflower or vegetable oil
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
¼ tsp salt
8 oz mozzarella or Montery Jack cheese, shredded
2 small or 1 medium tomato, sliced thinly
½ cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade (sliced thinly)

1. Bring dough to room temperature if it has been frozen or refrigerated. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. In a food processor, combine fresh corn kernels, diced tomatillo, 2 Tbsp olive oil and ½ tsp salt. Pulse several times to roughly chop the vegetables and combine the mixture. The mixture should still be chunky. Do not puree it to a smooth consistency. Put the corn mixture in a strainer placed over a bowl and let set for about 10 minutes to drain off excess moisture. Once the corn has been drained, place the mixture into a bowl and stir in the garlic and Parmesan or sharp cheddar cheese. Set aside.

3. Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add 2 tsp sunflower or vegetable oil. Once the oil is hot, add the mushrooms, onions, and ¼ tsp salt. Sauté vegetables until they are tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

4. Oil a pizza pan or stone with olive oil. Press the dough out evenly on the pan to about 12-14 inches in diameter. If you like a thin, crispy crust, press the dough a little thinner. Put the pizza crust in the preheated oven and par bake for about 10-12 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and spread half of the shredded mozzarella or Monterey Jack cheese on the crust. Next, spread the corn & tomatillo mixture on the crust, taking it all the way to the edges. Top with sautéed onions & mushrooms and spread the remaining shredded cheese on top.

5. Return the pizza to the oven and bake until the crust is golden, and the cheese is melted and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and top with thin slices of tomato and basil. Cut and serve.

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