Spring lime-tomatillo salad

16 Apr

Lime-tomatillo salad, on a picnic blanket next to my leg.

As of this morning, the Midwestern Meateater said, “Wow–this really feels like summer.” So he promptly marched off to school in shorts, and I sweltered in our apartment. And by 5 pm, it was snowing. Oh, spring, oh Mountain West, oh, living in a desert. Despite the snow, let’s pretend it is summer, or at least legitimately warm-ish, and that I (or you) would not want to cook in such weather. I would want to chop up summery things and cilantro whilst salsa dancing in the kitchen, like Salma Hayek on “Fools Rush In,” but without the accent because I’m not Mexican, and I would use tomatillos. Oh my! I have something that fits this description exactly.

This particular salad, like so many other concoctions in my alleyway kitchen, was borne out of resourcefulness, a need to use things that would otherwise go mushy, moldy, or to some other land of oldness. I tend to get dreamy in the produce section anytime I see an object I don’t know a lot about; I am a particular sucker for foreign-seeming vegetables or fruit. And hence, our tomatillos, in the crisper drawer of my fridge. Waiting. Forgotten. Unloved. In a foreign country, surrounded by apples and other English-speaking things. About to be loved.

About tomatillos. According to Wikipedia, which I’m pretty sure has been my main educational source for some years, even though non-existent people are in the database, says this about our green friend: “The tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa or Physalis philadelphica) is a small, spherical and green or green-purple fruit surrounded by a paper-like husk formed from the calyx.” I can confirm that. For all you will try not to, you will mostly think of southern women and the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes,” since this little guy seems so much like an unripe tomato. But I promise that if you keep waiting for it to “ripen,” um, your ripeness will turn out to be mold. ‘Tis ripe when green, firm, and quite tangy, in my non-professional opinion. What is it used in? Well, if you live around here, you know it as what every person in the valley has stood in line for on a Friday night at least once, despite the obvious crowd of awkward first-daters. Yes, it’s Cafe Rio, and the famous dressing? Made with tomatillos. Yes (nodding seriously). For you non-valley-ers, ever heard of salsa verde? Dark-ish green, thin, on the side of your gooped-up enchilada? Tomatillos are what make it green. In any case, they’re not expensive, and they’re now found in just about every produce section in any mega mart. I got my last ones at Wally-World.

Try this for your next picnic—or anytime the weather is way too good to be inside cooking.

Tomatillo-lime salad

2 tomatillos, husks removed, cut into quarters or eighths
2 roma tomatoes, cut into quarters or eighths
1 (or two!) ripe avocadoes, skin removed, pitted, and inside cut into chunks or wedges
handful chopped cilantro, abt 2 T

swig of lime juice
swig canola oil (an almost tasteless oil, best for this application)
tsp or so granulated white sugar
Pinch salt

Combine and taste—if you like less tang, add some sugar. More tang, more lime juice. Toss to coat and let marinate in the fridge. No, marinating is not just for meat—the flavors will come together even better with a little chill out time.

Nutritional standing:

  • Tomatoes—vit C, lycopene, fiber, high, high percentage water (but don’t use this as an excuse not to drink! Just a bonus)
  • Tomatillos—contributes to a plant-based diet, part of the newest Food Guide Pyramid
  • Low in everything you want to be most careful about moderation with—salt, sugar, even fat (and healthful fat from the oil)


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