Truthfully, I’ve found tomatillos most appealing because of their beauty, lime green jewels in a delicate, lacey husk, but I have scant history of actually cooking with them. When I scouted around and found a recipe for Roasted Tomatillo Coulis I got past their looks and into their culinary potential. A coulis, which I had to look up, is a thin sauce of puréed vegetables or fruit and it sounded like the perfect trimming for fish tacos – in fact, its trimming possibilities are vast. Chefs must use versions of it every which way, including tacos.
I imagined grilling a sustainable piece of fish and wrapping it into a crisp tortilla along with the tomatillo coulis, sour cream, chopped scallions, lightly dressed lettuce or cabbage slaw, and a few final tomatoes from the backyard. A squeeze of lime. Perfecto taco.
So, the matter of the fish. The endangerment of many species is a hot topic, rightfully so, and more effort than ever is being given to publicizing the crisis. We want to eat fish, we want to support local fish mongers, and we want to consume fish sustainably. I checked Seafood Watch for an update and found that Pacific or Alaskan Halibut is recommended for us West Coasters. There are other fish options, but I wanted the latest scoop on halibut. Save this Seafood Watch link and check periodically for updates.
The newest news for me, sadly, is what is required environmentally to produce vast quantities of ‘cheap’ prawns and shrimp we’ve been enjoying these past few years. B.C. and Oregon shrimp are fine, but the farming of shrimp in SE Asia is creating environmental havoc. Having said that, this taco made with B.C. or Oregon shrimp would be wonderful, as would our regional wild salmon. In this case, the fish of your choice is a vehicle for the roasted tomatillo coulis.
I followed the general idea of a Tomatillo Coulis from a 1998 Gourmet recipe I found online, but made a few changes out of preference and necessity. Refer to the original recipe if you like. Either way, it’s easy and tastes amazing.
Tomatillo Coulis: Tomatillos have been available locally throughout September and October – not sure how long that will last.
Toss the following ingredients with 2 T olive oil and roast at 350º for 30 minutes: 3 – 4 C halved tomatillos/ 1/2 medium red onion, quartered/ 4 cloves unpeeled garlic (slice off the root end for easier removal after roasting)/ 1 or 2 halved and seeded jalapeno or other hot pepper.
While tomatillos are roasting, place the following ingredients in a blender: 1/2 – 1 C spinach leaves (I used arugula instead because that’s what I had, but the full amount of spinach would have given the coulis a more appealing green tint)/ 1/2 – 1 C cilantro/ 1 T lime juice/ 1/4 C olive oil/ Add the slightly cooled roasted mixture, minus the hot peppers/Add peppers gradually in order to monitor and adjust heat/ Blend it all/ This can be puréed to almost smooth, or left slightly chunky/ Add water a tablespoon at a time if needed to facilitate blending. I found it unnecessary to add any water.
That’s it. This recipe yielded 2 cups of coulis, and could be made without the roasting. I might cut down on the raw garlic and onion. Or not. Pour coulis over grilled halibut, salmon, chicken or pork. Spread it over a piece of uncooked chicken and roast it; spread it on a chicken or cream cheese sandwich; use as a taco salad dressing or stir into sour cream for a chip dip. You get the picture. It’s a pretty versatile sauce, and this took about 40 minutes start to finish with a big part of that time for roasting. After the roasting, it all came together in a hot blender moment. It will keep in the fridge for at least a week, an amazingly flavorful ‘rich’ sauce. I could have eaten a bowlful.
A crisply grilled tortilla filled with fish and the tomatillo coulis, sour cream, slaw, scallions, cilantro, and tomato was dinner, along with roasted Delicata squash from Whistling Train Farm.
I’d like to plant tomatillos next spring. They can be grown in the PNW, though carefully as with tomatoes, and they become lovely green lanterns on the vine, and then coulis or salsa or soup or whatever. Bravo Tomatillo.