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story.lead_photo.caption Tomatillo and Watermelon Salad Photo by Kelly Brant

I really enjoyed today's tomatillo cover story from the Chicago Tribune. It was entertaining, well-written and informative. But, as you may have noticed, it's lacking exact recipes. While basic descriptions are fine for intuitive cooks, many cooks need specific amounts and instructions, especially when preparing a dish for the first time. The story was also lacking photos.

That combination made it a good opportunity to put my food styling skills and vast cookbook collection to good use.

I wasn't impressed with how the chili turned out — I simply followed the instructions in the story, but skipped the pork. The resulting dish was edible, but nothing to brag about. The salsa and the salad, on the other hand, were crazy delicious.

For direction, I turned to one of my favorite Mexican cuisine authorities — Pati Jinich's Pati's Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Cooking.

The book included several tomatillo salsa recipes, but this one — which combines raw tomatillos with canned chipotle peppers — caught my attention.

Fresh Tomatillo and Chipotle Salsa

1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed, quartered

1 clove garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped white or yellow onion (see note)

¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro

1 canned chipotle in adobo PLUS up to 2 tablespoons adobo sauce

Salt, to taste

1 to 2 ripe Hass avocados, halved, pitted, flesh scooped out and diced

In a food processor or blender, combine the tomatillos, garlic, onion, cilantro, chipotle and adobo. Process until smooth. It will be soupy. Season to taste with salt.

Transfer to a serving bowl and stir in the avocado and garnish with additional cilantro, if desired.

Note: To remove some of the pungency from the onion, soak it in cold water for about 10 minutes and then rinse it.

Makes about 4 cups.

The book also included a recipe for tomatillo and watermelon salad, which I used as a springboard for this one. One bite and this quickly became my new favorite summer salad.

Tomatillo and Watermelon Salad

2 cups diced watermelon

1½ cups chopped fresh tomatillos (about ½ pound)

1 cup sliced seedless cucumber

½ small red onion, sliced

Handful cilantro leaves

Handful mint leaves

Juice of 1 lime

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt, to taste

Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

In a large bowl, toss together the watermelon, tomatillos, cucumber, red onion, cilantro and mint. Drizzle with citrus juices and season to taste with salt and red pepper.

Makes about 4 servings.

Food on 07/10/2019

Print Headline: Tomatillos can star in salsas, salads

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