18 July 2011
When people ask me what I miss most about the U.S., I feel like I could spout out a long list of things. I tend though to stick to the important stuff - friendly customer service, holidays such as Thanksgiving and the 4th of July and of course...Mexican food. Lately though, my Mexican food cravings have been quite manageable. For one thing, there has been a slew of quite decent Mexican eateries that have opened up recently here in Paris, along with a subtle but definite opening of French minds to "exotic" cuisines in general. After five years, I've also gotten quite adept at finding Mexican products and ingredients and coming up with substitutes. Portuguese stores, for example, are the source of canned black beans at a reasonable price. A little lemon juice added to crème fraîche makes quite decent sour cream. The piments marocains I find at the market (which I think are roughly equivalent to Anaheim chilies) can stand in for chili rellenos. You get the idea. But the one ingredient that remains gapingly absent here in France, and definitely not possible to substitute, is the tomatillo.
Meaning little tomato in Spanish, the tomatillo is a type of green tomato that is a staple in Mexican cuisine. Covered with a husk, the green fruit on the inside has a high pectin content (and thus is a bit sticky to the touch). Chopped, sauteed and pureed, tomatillo is a key ingredient in all kinds of Mexican sauces and salsas. Salsa verde or green salsa has always been one of my favorite Mexican condiments, perfect for dipping chips, topping tacos or as a sauce for enchiladas. Here in tomatillo-less France, I make salsa verde with green chili paste from the Indian stores, plenty of lime juice and a bit of sugar. It's pretty good, but nothing like the real thing! So imagine my excitement when The Gastronomic Nomad, recently visiting from New York, brought us a big sack of tomatillos. Yay!
With these lovely tomatillos, I made my favorite salsa verde, which is adapted from an excellent Bobby Flay recipe. The tangy-slightly sweet taste is just out of this world! This makes a large batch, which for us thus far has served as the sauce for some cheese and onion enchiladas and topping for some spicy bean tacos. I wish that it would last forever...or at least until we figure out a way to cultivate tomatillos here in Paris! We did save one of them, thinking to plant the seeds in our balcony garden, so we'll see how that goes. If anyone has tomatillo cultivation tips, or would like to volunteer to regularly supply us via express-mail, then by all means let me know :-)!
SALSA VERDE (GREEN SALSA)
Adapted from Bobby Flay
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 jalapeno or 1/2 anaheim pepper, chopped
8 tomatillos, husked, rinsed and chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 tablespoons agave syrup or honey
Handful of fresh coriander, chopped
Salt, to taste
1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion and jalapeno/anaheim pepper. Saute until the onion is translucent.
2. Add the tomatillos, stir well and saute until they are soft and bubbly.
3. Add the mixture to a blender along with the lime juice, agave syrup/honey, coriander and salt. Mix well and pour into a large bowl. Set aside to cool slightly.