Viva el Tomatillo!

The tomatillo, a tasty little garden fruit, is an oft-overlooked treasure at the table. Most people who are familiar with the tomatillo think about it only in terms of salsa verde. Tomatillos range in size from purple ones the size of a cherry tomato to green ones the size of a golf ball. While the tomatillo does indeed give the popular Mexican salsa its unique flavor, there are a wide variety of dishes to which the tomatillo lends itself well. The citrusy and tart tomatillo goes by many names. It is also known as the husk tomato, Mexican groundcherry, or large-flowered tomatillo. In Spanish, it is known most as tomate verde, or green tomato. It turns out, that the tomatillo is not a tomato at all.  It is a member of the nightshade family that is closest to the cape gooseberry.

The possibilities for this parchment-encased treat are nearly endless and go way beyond a mere dip. It ups the game as part of many salads, soups, sauces, sandwiches and even cocktails! First, though, you should know how to select the perfect husk tomato. The tomatillo is at its peak ripeness when it has filled out its papery husk.  Generally, the smaller the fruit, the sweeter it is. The husk should be brightly colored and a bit sticky to touch.  Pass on those with a dry or dull husk. Next, peek inside. The flesh of the fruit should be firm and bright green.  This ancient fruit, known to the Aztecs as milomate, should not be stored in an airtight environment unless husked, washed and frozen.  Fresh tomatillos should be left on the counter or in a hanging fruit basket.

Now that you know how to choose the perfect “little tomato that’s not really a tomato,” head over to The Pearl Market and get yours from City Meadows Market Garden, one of our new vendors.  Christine and Sean would love to load you up on this healthy and fun fruit.  Next, visit Happy Hogs Premium Pork, another new vendor, for a fresh, locally-raised pork tenderloin. Then you have the beginnings of a delicious Pork Tenderloin in Tangy Tomatillo Sauce.  The full recipe for this soon-to-be-favorite is below.  If you’re feeling especially festive, grab some extra tomatillos for the perfect Tomatillo Margarita or Bloody Mary.

Pork Tenderloin in Tomatillo Sauce (recipe courtesy of www.thekitchn.com)

Serves 4 to 6

For the tomatillo sauce:

2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed
2 large jalapenos
1 large onion, cut into wedges
6 to 8 large cloves garlic, peeled
Handful of cilantro stems, leaves attached
Juice from 1 lime
Kosher salt

For the pork:

Bacon grease, lard, or vegetable oil, for browning
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into cubes
1/4 cup Mexican-style beer
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

 

To serve:

Small corn or flour tortillas
Cooked rice
Cooked beans
Chopped cilantro
Lime wedges

 

For the tomatillo sauce, place an oven rack a few inches from the broiler. Place tomatillos, jalapenos, onion wedges, and garlic on a roasting pan and broil for 5-6 minutes until starting to char. Flip all the ingredients to the other side and broil for another 5-6 minutes, until tomatillos are soft and blackened.

Allow the vegetables to cool for about 20 minutes. Split the jalapenos in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. (If a hotter sauce is desired, reserve some of the seeds to add to the blender.) Transfer the roasted vegetables and their juices to a blender. Blend until the ingredients are pureed but still a little chunky. Add the cilantro, lime juice, and a generous pinch of salt and pulse a few more times. (The sauce can be made up to 3 days in advance.)

For the pork, heat a few tablespoons bacon grease (or oil) in a large Dutch oven or braising dish over medium-high heat until sizzling.

Meanwhile, combine the flour, salt, and cumin in a large mixing bowl. Add the pork cubes and gently toss to coat. Working in batches, add the pork to the hot grease and cook until browned, about 1 – 2 minutes per side. Remove with a slotted spoon, set aside, and continue with the remaining pork.

Pour the beer into the hot skillet to de-glaze the pan and scrape up any leftover browned bits as the beer bubbles. Return the browned pork cubes to the skillet along with tomatillo sauce. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil; reduce heat and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes to allow flavors to marry. (This dish only gets better with time, so feel free to make a day or two in advance. When reheating, add a glug of chicken stock or water to thin if necessary.)

Serve with warmed tortillas, rice, beans, cilantro, and lime wedges.

 

Produce Perks: Increasing Access to Fresh & Healthy Foods

Everyone knows that The Pearl Market is the place to go for fresh and local produce, meat and other food items.  What you may not know is that the market proudly participates in a unique and highly effective program aimed at helping those in need to eat healthy, fresh and local.  In partnership with Wholesome Wave, the market operates the Produce Perks program. The program incentivizes customers receiving SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) by matching their food purchases dollar for dollar up to $20 using special tokens to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, plants and seeds.

“This program is a win-win-win.  Customers struggling to afford food are able to double their purchase power, the farmers and food merchants gain access to new customers, and both make the market stronger,” says Dustin Speakman, manager of The Pearl Market.

Between 2015 and 2017, The Pearl Market distributed nearly $11,000 in SNAP benefits and over $5,500 in Produce Perks incentives.

“I came to the market from the nonprofit hunger-relief world, so knowing that the work I do here is still benefiting people in need means a lot.  I have three small boys and know that eating healthy is not cheap. This program goes a long way to make eating fresh and healthy within reach for those in need.”

Posted by Cass Freeland

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