Salsa verde (“green sauce”) is often made with tomatillos. A member of the nightshade family, tomatillos look like green tomatoes but are more closely related to Cape gooseberries and other groundcherries. Their skins are covered with an inedible papery husk and a sticky residue that must be washed off before use (just use a little baking soda and water or commercial veggie wash). Tomatillos are beautifully tart and add a slight acidic kick to dishes.
While you could certainly use this salsa verde as a condiment or a dip, I like cooking with it (especially in my Two Versions Tortilla Casserole). This is a slightly spicy, quick-cooking sauce that gets an infusion of bright green freshness from spinach.
I make this sauce with either water or for extra richness, unsweetened coconut milk. Make sure you use coconut milk from a carton or hermetically-sealed box. Canned coconut milk is too thick with a flavor that will overpower the rest of the ingredients.
2 pounds of tomatillos (about 6 large), husks removed, washed, and chopped into large pieces
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 large jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, and minced
1 TBS olive oil
3 cups of fresh spinach, washed
¼ - ½ cup water or unsweetened coconut milk
Salt & pepper to taste
Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Add the olive oil. Add the tomatillos, onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low. Stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, cook for 10 minutes or until the onions are lightly browned and the tomatillos are softened and have released their juices. Remove the sauce from the heat and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
Pour the sauce into a food processor or blender and pulse. Add half of the spinach and process until well-combined. Repeat with the second half. Add ¼ cup of water or coconut milk and pulse until smooth, adding more water if needed. Test for salt and pepper and add more if needed.
You can use the sauce immediately or store in a covered container in the refrigerator up to three days.
Makes 4 cups.
Don’t Freak Out!
1) For extra heat, add the jalapeno seeds and ribs to the salsa. For less heat, use half of a jalapeno. You can also use a pinch of red pepper flakes instead.
2) I don’t recommend using canned or frozen spinach; the vibrancy and freshness of raw spinach makes the salsa verde much more appealing. Feel free, however, to substitute fresh kale or Swiss chard for the spinach.
3) You may be able to grow or find purple tomatillos at farmers or high-end markets. They’re slightly sweeter than the green tomatillos. Of course, your sauce will be a bit more “violeta” than “verde” but the taste will be similar.
4) If you want to use this as a dip or condiment rather than a cooking sauce, omit the water or coconut milk and leave the vegetables a bit chunky (quickly pulse the sauce a few times rather than blending it until well-combined). You can also use a regular counter top or immersion blender.