Let's just get this part out of the way right up front: Yes, tomatillos are kind of weird.
They look like unripe tomatoes, covered in a sticky goo and crinkly husks. They're best when firm, bordering on hard, busting through their papery shells, and they taste like the puckery love child of a tomato and a lemon—sharp and tart when raw, and only a little sweeter and fruitier when cooked.
To borrow from one of our favorite John Hughes movies, if tomatoes are the Claires of summer produce, tomatillos are Ally Sheedy's Allison Reynolds—dark and brooding, mysterious beneath their protective shells. But that's part of what makes them so great—tomatillos don't pretend to be anything other than what they are. And though you might think to reach for them only for salsas or sauces, there's so much more this punchy little fruit can do.
Like make jam, for example. Tomatillos are naturally high in pectin, making them ideal for jellying and stirring into creamy yogurt to make a sweet-and-savory dip (get the recipe). It's like that pepper jelly your aunt always brings to the holidays, but a hundred times fresher and more interesting.
Or provide the basis for shakshuka, that classic Middle Eastern dish typically made with tomatoes (get the recipe). When roasted and cooked down with bay leaf, mint and cumin, the tomatillos take on a warm, piquant flavor and a beautiful forest green hue. Scoop the 'shuka and softly cooked eggs with warm pita and you'll never go back to tomatoes again.
And, of course, you can use them for cooked salsa verde or raw salsa cruda. You can sauté them, stew them, bake them or fry them, or simply slice them and eat them raw, preferably chilled from the refrigerator.
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Choose tomatillos (which are technically a member of the nightshade family and related to Cape gooseberries) that are ever so slightly underripe, with taut husks that are on the verge of tearing. If you're lucky, you may find specimens closer in hue to yellow or even purple. And just remember that feel is more important here than look. Once you've got your hands on them, husk-on tomatillos will keep for about two weeks in the fridge, or up to four husk-off. (Tip: Soak tomatillos in hot tap water for a few minutes to easily remove the husks.)
From there, the tomatillo is your oyster. Give the thing a chance, and you'll see it's not such a sourpuss after all.
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