Summer is over. I am sure to miss my weekend morning ritual of walking to the farmer’s market, buying groceries for the week while sampling various produce. In farmers markets, I find uniqueness in commonest ingredients (e.g., heirloom tomatoes) and often run into an uncommon gem. One of the things I grew to love this summer were tomatillos, pineapple tomatillos to be precise.
Tomatillo (L is often silent) is a popular fruit/vegetable grown in Mexico. Tomatillos have been gaining popularity in the United States. It looks similar to tomatoes but has meatier flesh than tomatoes. The sticky glutinous pulp is covered by husk like in cape gooseberry fruits. Generally, tomatillos are a bit sweeter than sweet tomatoes. Many Mexican dishes contain liberal use of tomatillos. Tomatillos are still not a mainstream ingredient but most of us have enjoyed dishes made with it, such as salsa verde (green salsa) or many other Mexican dishes.
This summer, I tried pineapple tomatillos for the first time. A super enthusiastic vendor at my the farmer’s market was handing them out. I am glad that I was curious enough to try them.
Pineapple Tomatillo Classification
There is much confusion about pineapple tomatillos — if they are same thing as tomatoes or cape gooseberry, etc.
Tomatillos are not unripe green tomatoes although they are often called “green tomatoes”. Both are from same family, Solanaceae, but from different genus Solanum (tomato) and Physalis (tomatillo). Tomato and tomatillo has as much similarities as other familiar vegetables such as potatoes and eggplants, which belong to the same family, Solanaceae.
Pineapple tomatillo is a cultivar of tomatillo, which is Physalis philadelphica (or ixocarpa) while cape gooseberry is Physalis peruviana. Pineapple tomatillos are from the same genus but are from different species. They are similar in same way as a cow (Bos primigenius) is similar to an yak (Bos grunniens) and we (Homo sapiens) are similar to neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis).
Pineapple Tomatillos in the Farmers Market
The regular green tomatillos are becoming common and can be bought at majority of large grocery stores around the country. Pineapple tomatillos are harder to find cultivar of tomatillos often found only in farmers markets.
Pineapple tomatillos are smaller than regular tomatillos, similar in size and shape to cherry tomatoes. Like any tomatillos, the fruit of pineapple tomatillos are covered in papery husk. The flavor is unique a blend of tomato and sweetness of pineapple.
At $5.50 per pint, pineapple tomatillos were not super affordable. I bought them without any idea on how to eat them. After buying, I probed the enthusiastic vendor for ideas. His reply was to eat directly as a snack or add them in a summer salad. After probing further, he let me in his secret – he often uses pineapple tomatillos as toppings for vanilla ice cream.
Pineapple Tomatillo Recipe
After returning from the farmers market, I fixed myself a bowl of vanilla ice cream with pineapple tomatillos on top of it. It was a good excuse to eat ice cream. Pineapple tomatillos were a perfect topping for the ice cream. They were not too sweet to overpower sweetness of the ice cream. Pineapple tomatillo’s succulent texture complimented perfectly with smooth melting ice cream.
In coming days, I finished my first batch of pineapple tomatillos as topping to a half gallon of vanilla ice cream. If I have to defend myself, part of the reason was because I couldn’t find any recipes for pineapple tomatillos online. Most of them used pineapple fruit and regular tomatillos. The following week, I went to the farmers market looking for pineapple tomatillos – determined not just to use them as ice cream toppings but in few other recipes. They were out of pineapple tomatillos for this year. Definitely next season!
Posted in: Food | Tags: end of farmers market, farmers market tomatillo, green salsa, sweet tomatillos, tomatillo classification, tomatillo ice cream, tomatillo scientific classification, tomatillos
Two days ago, I finally unwrapped a slow cooker that I had received as gift more than four years ago. Slow cooking chili verde seemed like ideal meal to serve my visiting family – something new yet familiar to their palate.
Chili verde literally translates into green chilies and used to describe Mexican (or rather Mexican American) slow cooked pork stew containing green chilies and tomatillos. Tomatillos look like green tomatoes but have meatier white filling inside them and are usually sold within dry papery husk. I find tomatillos have slightly tang sweet aromatic flavor. You should try it to get more sense of its flavor. For this recipe, I wanted to get fresh tomatillos, but couldn’t find more than handful of them after raiding three grocery stores around DC. So I decided to also use canned verde salsa made with tomatillos. However, since most people were not used to tangy flavor of tomatillos and hotness of green chilies, this is how I improvised my chili verde.
First thing I did was to substituted green chili with store bought canned Goya chipotles en adobo. Chipotle en adobo is smoked jalapeno chilies made in tomato sauce, which is spiced with paprika, onions, and other spices. I used chipotle instead of other green chilies because it has distinctive smoky flavor, goes well with slow-cooked meat, mildly hot and most importantly because I love its flavor. So let it be chipotle chili verde!
Other changes were adding grilled red onions, grilled bell peppers and raw chopped tomatoes . I wanted to get a fresh vegetables into my chili verde. To grill, I put my vegetables/aromatics in bread loaf pan and put inside oven set to broiler for a few minutes until I saw some vegetables were charred.
I started with big chunk of boneless pork shoulder also known as pork butt for my chili verde. Fat should be on top so that once it starts cooking, it will start to drizzle down and moisten the rest of meat.
I started by rubbing chipotles en adobo, salt, cumin and garlic to the pork.
I mixed grilled (broiled) vegetables, verde salsa, and lime juice with its lime zest.
Cooked the mixture in high setting in slow cooker for six to eight hours. I placed the slow cooker below the stove fan in order to use the kitchen exhaust fan.
After eight hours, I removed my cook chili verde. As you can notice that I added pieces of zucchini mid way through my cooking.
The chili verde sauce was spicy hot, mild tangy with smoky flavors. It was very satisfying!
The slow cooked meat itself was soft and fell readily apart. Surprisingly it was not that spicy. It was great because it allowed me to share my chili verde with a five year old member of our family and other adults who couldn’t stomach the hotness.
The best way to eat was definitely over basmati rice – just like a spicy chipotle chili verde rice bowl.
Posted in: Cooking | Tags: canned tomatillos, chipotles en adobo, Goya chipotle adobo, Mexican food, pork chili verde, slow cooker chili verde, smoked jalapeno chilies, tomatillos