Cooking with Tomatillos

Article first published as Get To Know The Tomatillo on Blogcritics.

Cuisine in California has been influenced by Mexican culture for years. As supermarkets produce sections expand with more exotic fruits and vegetables there are increasing opportunities to try new recipes. I’ve lived in California my entire life and often looked at the curious little green husk-covered fruits know as tomatillos in the store. The certainly look strange and unpalatable. I recently came across breakfast scramble recipe in my South Beach Quick & Easy Cookbook and decided to give them a try.

Tomatillos are a staple of Mexican cuisine. They are a base of many green salsas and sauces. The fruit is part of the nightshade family of plants which also includes tomatoes. The tomatillos have a papery outer husk, part of the flower (calyx) from which the fruit is borne. Inside, the fruit is round, green to yellow-green and sticky. Peeling off the husk and a quick rinse under the tap reveals the useful fruit. When diced, the interior is pale green and full of tiny edible seeds.

To make a quick breakfast dish that brings variety to your table try this recipe. It is adapted from the South Beach recipe which led me to these amazing little fruits.

Tomatillo Breakfast Scramble

3 tomatillos, husks removed and fruit rinsed
¼ small yellow onion, diced
3 large eggs, beaten
2 tsp water
¼ cup shredded cheeses
1 tsp chopped fresh cilantro
Olive or vegetable oil
Salsa and sour cream (optional)

Dice the tomatillos and onions. In a saucepan, heat 1 TBSP of oil over medium heat. Add the onion and tomatillo and sauté for 1-2 minutes until both are tender. Beat eggs in a small bowl, add water and beat again. Add beaten eggs to the pan, stirring until eggs are set. Remove from heat and sprinkle on cheese and cilantro. Mix again and the cheese will melt as you get ready to plate the dish. Serve with a little salsa and sour cream if desired.

The dish has a delicate flavor, so go light on the cilantro and use any salsa sparingly or it will overpower the tomatillos. The cooked tomatillo has a light, fresh flavor and little bit of a sweet citrus tone. Tomatillos are also great in green salsas which are incredibly easy to make.

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Hearty Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian Chili with Cheese & Sour Cream

Tonight I discovered I was missing an ingredient for the dish I intended to make.  So in a pinch I had to make something from what I had on hand.  It was cold tonight and I had plenty of canned items in my pantry so I made chili. 

It turned out very tasty!  Even my picky little kids ate some of it.  Of course, they mostly ate the cheese and sour cream off the top.  This is South Beach friendly as well!  Here is the recipe I used:

2 TBSP olive oil

1  small onion, chopped

1 cup chopped bell pepper (I used some red, yellow and green since that’s what I had)

1 TBSP minced garlic – I like to use the paste, so much easier

Salt & Pepper

2 cans Caribbean style black beans (black beans with chili, bell pepper and lime)

1 can cannellini (while kidney beans)

1 can diced tomatoes – do not drain

1 can vegetable broth

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp oregano

Heat the olive oil on med-high and add onions and bell pepper.  Stir and watch until they begin to soften.  Add the garlic and some salt and pepper.  When the peppers are tender, add the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer on med-low for about 15 minutes.  Serve with shredded cheese and sour cream, if you like.  If you are not doing South Beach,  some cornbread or tortilla chips would go great on the side!

Chicken Stir Fry

This is what I made for dinner last night, a stir fry of chicken with loads of veggies. 

Recipe: Sorry no exact amounts, it’s stir fry — I just wing it!

chicken breasts, cut into 1″ pieces

vegetable oil



red, yellow and green bell pepper

fresh bean sprouts

snow peas

Thai flavor herb paste  – found in the produce section with other fresh herb pastes

Cooked brown rice

I cooked the chicken first with a little vegetable oil, salt and pepper.  When it was cooked through I added the Thai paste.   I removed the chicken from the pan, added a tiny bit of vegetable oil and then the veggies.  I stir fried it until the broccoli was tender.  I served it on a small helping of brown rice.

This meal was a way to use up the fresh veggies I had left from last week’s shopping trip. I made this in keeping with the SBD Phase 2 guidelines. 

The Thai flavor herb paste was spicy and the ginger gave it a nice aromatic quality.  I didn’t check the label until after I was cooking, but it did have some dextrose (a sugar) in it.  I don’t think it matters since a small amount is used for the entire meal.

Vegetable Beef Soup

I made a vegetable beef soup for dinner on a cold day.  I took a basic recipe from the South Beach Diet Cookbook, and tweaked it a little to add more flavor.  It’s still Phase One legal for all of you who are doing the South Beach Diet.  And if you’re not, it’s still a tasty and healthy recipe. 

2 TBSP olive oil

1 lb lean beef, cut into cubes

1 rib of celery, diced

1/2 large onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 lb green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 can fat-free beef broth, plus enough water to make 5 cups of liquid

1/2 small head of cabbage, shredded

1/4 bag of fresh pre-washed spinach

1 can died tomatoes

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot brown the steak with 1 TBSP of the oil.  Remove the steak from the pot and set aside.  Add the other TBSP of oil to the pot and cook the celery, onion and green beans until tender.  Add the garlic and cook a minute longer.  Add the cooked steak, and the rest of the vegetables and water to the pot.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 1.5 hours.

Serve with one of the following:  a squeeze of fresh lemon juice; a few drops of hot sauce; or sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.