Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Lemongrass-Coconut Tomatillo Sauce

One of the new additions to my garden this year is a tomatillo plant. I plunked it in the dirt with no idea what I'd do with it; I just liked the green fruits wrapped in papery husks, like little gifts. We recently returned from a tropical vacation to find ripe tomatillos showering down, so it was time to figure out how to use them. Reluctant to let go of vacation too quickly, I decided to try them with lemongrass and a bit of coconut.

Tomatillos look like green tomatoes, beneath their husks, but they taste nothing like them. These are the green goods for salsa verde, which is essentially what I made — but with a healthy infusion of Pacific Islands flavor. A good tomatillo fills out its husk nicely. They start out bright green and tart, and gradually turn yellow and mellow. My plant is turning out tiny tomatillos, about an inch across. You'll find much larger ones at the market. You can use them raw, roasted, or cooked; here, I boiled them briefly to make them a little less punchy.

We threw in an Anaheim chile harvested at our school garden, lemon verbena from the front yard, and a bit of juice. The result: Wow. The tart-sweet, light sauce saved our otherwise unremarkable chicken and guarantees space for tomatillos in next year's garden.

Lemongrass-Coconut Tomatillo Sauce

Use fresh lemongrass if you can find it (try well-stocked stores or Asian markets): Cut off the bottom stem and top leaves so you have only 4 or 5 inches of stalk, then peel off and discard the tough outer layers. If you don't have lemon verbena, try lemon balm, cilantro, or lemon basil. You might want to throw in a jalapeƱo for a bit of heat. You can freeze the sauce without the coconut milk; blend in the coconut milk after heating the thawed sauce.

1/2 pound tomatillos
1/4 cup onion, coarsely chopped
1 Anaheim chile, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
2 stalks lemongrass, coarsely chopped (see notes)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon verbena, coarsely chopped (see notes)
1/4 cup light coconut milk
1 tablespoon pineapple or apple juice
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

Husk tomatillos and wash to remove the sticky residue. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add tomatillos, and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and coarsely chop.

Combine tomatillos and remaining ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree. Serve with grilled chicken, fish, rice, or vegetables.


coryzalia said...

Tomatillos go well with lemongrass and coconut for a healthy meal.

Cindy Rowland said...

It's been too long since I've eaten a tomatillo. Summer is just too darn packed with goodness.
Looks tasty, btw.

Darienne said...

I'm trying not to be alarmed that it's getting to mid-August and I feel I've barely tasted the best of summer yumminess. We seemed to get off to a slow start around here.


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