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A tomatillo (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)
A tomatillo (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

Shake up your salad with this Mexican ingredient Add to ...

What: A relative of cape gooseberries, tomatillos are widely used in Mexican cuisine and a key ingredient in salsa verde. The green fruit, which can appear yellowish or bluish, resemble tomatoes, but are firmer, more tart and encased in a papery husk.

When: Generally at their peak in late summer, early fall.

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How: “There’s so many things you can do with tomatillos,” says Francisco Alejandri, chef and owner of the popular Mexican food stall Agave y Aguacate in Toronto’s Kensington market. He uses them in everything from cocktails to salads to desserts. He offers a few ideas for inspiration:

Tomatillo salad: Pick tomatillos that have a darker, brownish husk. “The darker the colour, the sweeter the tomatillo is,” he says. “The lighter the colour, the more bitter and acid. … That can throw your balance away.”

Remove the husk and rinse well with tepid water to remove the sticky coating. Chop the tomatillos, some crispy pork rinds (available at specialty stores), white onion, coriander, avocado and some chile piquin or bird peppers. Throw it all together with some queso fresco, a soft, crumbly cheese, and dress with lime juice and olive oil.

“And that’s it,” he says. “It’s a very simple salad, but it’s really good.”

Tomatillo cocktail: Remove husks and rinse well. Purée tomatillos with cucumbers (about 70 per cent tomatillos to 30 per cent cucumbers) and add simple syrup. Pour an ounce and a half of gin into a cup, add ice, and top with the tomatillo-cucumber mixture.

“It’s amazing,” he says. “A-ma-zing.”

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