September is a month when many home gardeners in the northern hemisphere start monitoring weather forecasts in earnest. Nighttime temperatures are dropping, but plenty of green tomatoes remain on the vine that will likely get zapped by cold weather in coming days or weeks. Pick them now, or hold off in hopes that more will ripen before the first frost ruins them all? This gardening dilemma probably explains the origins of the classic, waste-not-want-not comfort food dishes of fried green tomatoes and green tomato/apple pie. But what other uses are there for these late season tomatoes that have not yet ripened?
This recipe offers one answer. Here I’ve substituted green tomatoes for the similarly flavored, and very distantly related, tomatillos that are the main ingredient of ever-popular Mexican-style salsa verde, which also features green chili peppers, onions, garlic, and cilantro. This easy, delicious, and versatile salsa may be used fresh or frozen for later use.
2 pounds firm, green tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 fresh green Anaheim (or other large, mildly-flavored) chili pepper, stem and seeds removed, quartered
3-4 green jalapeño chilies (for a medium salsa) or serrano chilies (for a hotter salsa), stems removed, quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey or sugar
1/3 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves (coriander greens, dhania, etc.), coarsely chopped
- Combine the green tomatoes, onion, chili peppers, garlic, salt, cumin, olive oil, and water in a stock pot. Bring to a boil and cook covered on a medium-low heat burner for approximately ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more water only if needed to maintain the most minimal broth.
- Stir in and simmer for an additional five minutes the lemon zest, lemon juice, honey (or sugar), and cilantro. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning, if needed, by adding more lemon juice, honey, and/or salt, to taste.
- Spoon the mixture (in batches if necessary) into the container of a food processor or blender and pulse until the salsa reaches the consistency you prefer, either chunky or a smooth puree. Makes approximately one quart of salsa, which should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. This recipe may be doubled or tripled.