Default recipes. We all have them. I often feature a default pasta night here on Sippity Sup. It’s different every time and that is sorta the idea behind default recipes.
Default recipes are great when you just feel like opening up the fridge and making something from whatever is on hand at the moment. As I said pasta is a great candidate, as are frittatas, quesadillas and even crostini. I swear I could make an interesting tapenade from the leftovers of your fast food lunch, don’t laugh I bet I could.
Another topping closely related in spirit to a tapenade is salsa.
My default salsa is typically made with chopped tomatillos, white onion, salt, pepper, and a little heat. I also like the addition of limejuice and cilantro. When I want to get fancy I add roasted peppers. Sometimes mild one like Anaheim or poblano. Other times something with some fire– like serrano. When I decide to add peppers to my default salsa I prefer to roast the peppers first, and if I am already roasting the peppers it’s no bother to roast the tomatillos too. See how default dishes work?
This may sound like I am tooting my own horn (toot-toot) but there are times when I have made a particularly good batch of tomatillo salsa and I think: “Man this is so good I could eat it as soup”.
Well today I am not just going to think it, I am going to do it. It does not take much tweaking to transform this default salsa into a great soup either. The roasted flavors of the tomatillo and the smoky peppers can become quite complex and really do deserve to be highlighted.
I have to credit Martha Stewart for much of the inspiration in this recipe however. The addition of yogurt in her version is what finally prompted me to take my salsa from the tortilla chip to the soup bowl. It’s the very thing that transforms these classic salsa partners into a cool and creamy summer soup. It’s the yogurt that marries the flavors and helps keep it light. Nobody wants to get weighed down on a hot summer night.
It just occurred to me that tomatillos might be a new ingredient to you. They look like a small green tomato. But in fact they are juicier and more acidic. They have hints of lemon, green apple and herb giving them a very distinct flavor.
Lately I have noticed that tomatillos have moved from the Latin markets to more mainstream grocery stores too– at least in L.A. But I bet you can find them near you too.
They can be a bit intimidating to buy. Some of the very things that define a good tomatillo are the things you would typically avoid when buying other fruits and vegetables. So look for firm (even hard) green specimens. If they are beginning to get some yellow and orange tones to them they are too ripe.
It’s easy to avoid the under-ripe fruit as well, because the papery husk splits open on its own, revealing the green tomatillo. This means they are indeed ready to eat. Lastly, and perhaps most counter-intuitive, look for tomatillos that are a bit sticky. They feel a bit unpleasant in your hand, but trust me, these are the very best of the bunch.
Tomatillos keep quite well. Unlike tomatoes they may be stored in the refrigerator a couple of weeks with no loss of texture. I have read blogs that say they freeze quite well, but that has not been my experience. I think it saps their bright green acidic qualities and they lose that zing that makes them special.
I consider the following recipe a guideline for this soup; feel free to augment as you like– I certainly would. After all this is intended to be a default recipe so I hate to give you too many rigid directions.
- 1 lb tomatillos, hulled and washed
- 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 1 serano chile
- 1 c peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped cucumber
- 1⁄4 c roughly chopped onion
- 1⁄4 c roughly chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
- 1⁄2 c homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock, skimmed of fat
- 1 T freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1⁄2 t coarse salt
- 1⁄2 c plain nonfat yogurt
- 1⁄2 c water
- 2 avocado, cut into cubes (optional)
Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack; let cool completely. Peel garlic; place cloves in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add tomatillos, serrano, and any accumulated juices along with cucumber, onion, cilantro, stock, lime juice, and salt; blend until mixture is smooth. Add yogurt and the water; process until they are just combined.
Transfer to a large bowl or plastic storage container; cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or even better overnight. To serve, ladle into bowls; garnish with avocado and/or cilantro leaves.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD