The Tomatillo: How to Grow It and a Recipe from Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza

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A staple in many Mexican dishes, the tomatillo is a delightful nightshade vegetable that you might have seen recently at some local farmers markets. They sort of look like very hard, green tomatoes and do well in low desert climates like Phoenix. They are an annual climate and seem to like our warm weather and sunlight. Read on for growing tips and a recipe from Barrio Cafe's Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza.

See also: It's Heating Up: 5 Tips for Watering

"Tomatillos can range from a bit woodsy and bitter to almost a sweet finish. A little secret I have for combating a bitter batch of tomatillo puree is to add a pinch of sugar. This will bring out the natural sweetness of the tomatillo," says Chef Silvana.

Sure they're delicious, but what is it about them that makes them the perfect summer secret?

High in vitamins A, C and potassium, tomatillos are a healthy addition to your garden. Best grown in summer and early fall here in the Phoenix area, tomatillos are best planted in pairs. Plant your tomatillos in a sunny location and feel free to add compost to the soil. A raised bed is perfect.

Like tomatoes, tomatillo like even moisture. You might even get a tomato cage to support them as they grow, although they likely won't grow as large as your tomato plants. You can harvest the fruit when the fruit is green and sort of fills out the husk around it. Be careful, if they outgrow the husks, birds might start eating your plants and the tartness of the fruit will have dissipated.

Store the fruit in the fridge or in a brown paper bag. Used in sauces and salsa, tomatillos freeze well either whole out of the husk or cooked and blended with other ingredients in your recipe. Typically, the fruit is broiled, grilled or steamed and Chef Esparza recommend using them in Enchiladas Suizas, Enchiladas Verdes, salsas, mole, posole, chile verde or even adding them to BBQ sauce or chicken broth.

Here's the recipe you've been waiting for: Enchiladas Suizas Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza Recipe Time: 1 Hour, 20 Minutes

Ingredients TOMATILLO CREAM SAUCE • 3/4 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil • 1 tablespoon minced shallot • 2 thyme sprigs • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt • 1/2 teaspoon pepper • 1/4 cup dry white wine • 1 pt. heavy whipping cream • 1/4 teaspoon sugar

ENCHILADAS • Vegetable oil • 8 white corn tortillas (7 in.) • 2 cups thinly sliced cooked chicken breasts • 8 ounces queso fresco, crumbled • 4 ounces Oaxaca cheese, pulled into shreds

GARNISH • 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced • 1/4 cup crema*, thinned with a little milk, if needed, so it's pourable • 8 ounces chorizo or longaniza, removed from casings, crumbled, and cooked; optional • Pico de gallo

PREPARATION 1. Make sauce: Preheat broiler with rack on rung closest to heat. Set tomatillos on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Broil, turning once, until blackened, 10 minutes. Purée in a blender. Measure 3/4 cup and set aside. Set oven to 350°.

2. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add shallot and cook until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add thyme, salt, and pepper and cook until shallot starts to brown, 1 minute. Immediately add wine and reduce until almost gone, 2 minutes. Stir in cream, tomatillo purée, and sugar. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, about 5 minutes, then reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickly coats a metal spoon, 3 to 5 more minutes. Set aside.

3. Make enchiladas: Heat 2 large frying pans over medium-high heat. In first pan, pour 1/4 in. oil and heat until shimmering. Working with 1 tortilla at a time, cook in dry pan, turning once, until softened, 10 to 20 seconds, then in oil, turning once, until puffy and softened but not crisp, 10 to 15 seconds. Arrange in a single layer on paper towels.

4. Lay tortillas flat on a work surface. Arrange chicken and queso fresco down the centers. Roll closed and set, seams down, in a 9- by 13-in. baking dish (with no sauce on the bottom). Pour sauce over enchiladas; top with Oaxaca cheese.

5. Bake until cheese melts and sauce is bubbling, 20 minutes.

6. Garnish with queso fresco, cilantro, onion, and a drizzle of crema (from a squeeze bottle, if you have one). Add chorizo if you like and serve with salsa

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