It's October, and it's the time of year when I marvel at my garden. The summer flowers are past their peak, the tomatoes are pretty much done, the basil has been harvested, but I'm amazed at how much of my garden continues to grow in spite of the chilly days and colder nights. Most of all, I'm amazed at my tomatillos, which have defied all frost warnings and are continuing to set fruit. At the first good hard frost, they'll wilt and call it a season. But until then, I pretend for a moment — in spite of the chill — that a little bit of August still thrives on in my garden.
I love tomatillos, which is a good thing because although my tomato crop was pitiful this year, my tomatillo crop is doing quite well. I've harvested some eight pounds so far, and I'll probably have another five pounds if we get just enough warm weather for the fruits to get just a bit larger. Tomatillo plants have a disturbing resemblance to deadly nightshade, but I think they're gorgeous, especially after they begin to set fruit. The delicate husks string out along the branches like Chinese paper lanterns. The fruit grows inside until it fills the husk and bursts the seams.
My favorite dish to make with tomatillos is enchiladas verdes de pollo (green enchiladas with chicken). I use a cooked salsa verde that works well for either enchiladas or chilaquiles, and when the harvest is boutiful I scale it up so I can freeze the excess sauce.
This recipe comes from The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diane Kennedy, who has done for Mexican cuisine in this counrty what Julia Child did for French cuisine.
Salsa de Tomate Verde, Cocida (Cooked Tomatillo Sauce)
Diane Kennedy's The Art of Mexican Cooking
1 lb. tomates verdes (tomatillos), husks removed and rinsed
4 chiles serranos (I've used jalapeños when I don't have serranos, but serranos are slightly hotter)
2 Tbs roughly-chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 1/2 Tbs safflower oil (I use canola)
sea salt to taste
Put the tomatillos and fresh chilies (I cut the tops off) into a pan, cover with water, and bring to a simmer. Continue cooking until tomatillos are soft but not falling apart — about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Strain, reserving 1/3 C of the cooking water.
Put the reserved cooking water into a blender, add the chilies, cilantro, and garlic, and blend until almost smooth. Add the tomatillos and blend to make a fairly smooth sauce. (10 seconds or so)
Heat oil in frying pan. Add the sauce and reduce over high head until thickened. About 8 minutes. Add salt to taste.
Use less chilies if you don't like spicy foods. If I'm not using the sauce right away, I'll stop after the blending step and freeze the extra, and save the frying in oil and reducing step for when I actually use the sauce.