Can we all just agree that salsa is the perfect food? It’s fresh and colorful, practically calorie free, and, god bless it, healthy. You can slather it all over everything from eggs and hot dogs to pork roast and salmon and feel good about it. I’ve made it with mushrooms, cantaloupe, even strawberries. It’s an endless source of inspiration for me, so I guess it’s a good thing I like to eat it. My sister and her family came up to watch a game with us the other night and they love spicy salsas, so I made this smokey Fire Roasted Tomatillo and Corn Salsa for them. I fire roast the ingredients just until their skins begin to blister and they start to give up their juices. It lends the salsa that special je ne sais quoi. For this recipe I combined tomatillos with heirloom tomatoes, corn, and jalapeno for a little bit different flavor profile than you might be used to. The tangy tomatillo is balanced by the fire roasting, and the sweetness of the corn. We ate it with chips, but I watched the bowl like a hawk all night and swooped it away just before it was all gone…I’m having the leftovers on a grilled sausage right now.
Tomatillos are a firm, tart fruit from Mexico… they look like small green tomatoes covered with a papery husk, and yes, they are related. They have a great citrusy kick, and they’re very user friendly — once you peel off the husk they are ready to use, raw or cooked. No peeling or seeding is necessary, and they’re perfect for salsas, in fact the classic Mexican salsa verde is made with them. I chose to pair them with greenish heirloom tomatoes for a nice color match. You could use yellow, or red, as well.
The fire roasting accomplishes two things, it partially cooks the veggies to bring out their flavor, and adds a second layer of flavor with the charred skins. Of course you can do this on an outdoor grill, or you lay all the ingredients out on a lined baking sheet and broiling them until the skins blister and they start to release their juices. But don’t forget that if you have a gas stove you have your own ready made open flame for charring anything. Just use caution and a pair of long tongs. I started my veggies off over the flame on my stove and finished them off under the broiler.
I put a whole, small, head of garlic in this recipe, but because I roasted it first, the flavor is completely mellowed.
What You Will Need
- 1 lb tomatillos (about 5 or 6 large)
- 2 ears of corn
- 2 medium heirloom tomatoes
- 2 jalapeno peppers
- 1 small bulb of garlic
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, plus more for garnish
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- Set the oven to broil
- Cut the top end off of the garlic bulb and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap loosely with foil and put in the oven on a middle rack.
- Remove the papery husks from the tomatillos and give them a rinse. Cut the stems off the jalapenos. If you have a gas stove, briefly roast the tomatillos, ears of corn, tomatoes and jalapenos over the open flame, using a pair of tongs to hold them securely against the flame. Use caution. When they have begun to blister, set them on a lined baking sheet. If you don't have a gas stove, skip this step.
- Put the whole, uncut vegetables under the broiler until they start to blacken and release their juices. Watch carefully, this will not take long, maybe 10 minutes.
- Carefully transfer the vegetables and any juice to the bowl of a food processor. Check the garlic, when it is browned and soft, it's ready. Squeeze the garlic out of the peel and drop into the processor.
- Pulse the machine several times and then run it briefly. You want a uniform texture but not a complete puree.
- Season with the lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cilantro, cover tightly, and refrigerate before serving. The salsa will benefit from a couple of hours in the fridge. Taste again just before serving to check the seasonings. I added more salt and pepper.
Be sure to prep the garlic and pop it into the oven right away, while you gather your ingredients for the salsa. The garlic will take longer to roast. This salsa is a great one to serve along with grilled chicken.