Here’s a simple, flavorful dish suitable for a quick weeknight supper that takes only around 45 minutes from start to finish.
Though our Midwestern constitutions don’t always feel at home in the South, we fully appreciate just how lucky we are to live on the Atlantic shore where seafood is not only abundant but caught-that-morning fresh. Today’s bowl of goodness features briny sweet NC littlenecks, but takes its inspiration from memories of travelling to two other coastal areas.
First are Roaring Water Bay mussels that we steamed in a heady Sligo County brew with bacon and cabbage. A feast taken watching the moon rise over the inky black waters of Baltimore, County Cork, Ireland. The other, cherrystone clams cooked with garlic, chillies, lemon and a splash of a local white wine. In the postcard village of Lubec, ME, perched at the northeastern tip of the US, it was a meal prepared in the shared kitchen of our inn and enjoyed in our room overlooking the Quoddy Narrows and Canada in the distance.
“Knee-high by the Fourth of July,” or so the old corn farming adage goes.
Growing up in the upper Midwest, where there are only a handful of months in which farmers could plant, cultivate and harvest, you quickly learn — and learn to anticipate — when each of these precious few crops is ready and at its peak. Here in the south, the lines blur as the growing season is twice that of my former home, if not more.
Still, no matter how quickly the stalks rise skyward, the first ears of ripe sweet corn in our kitchen will always signal it’s truly the height of summer. And this year, our corn is homegrown! A deliciously successful garden experiment.
Being that the heat and humidity practically shout that it is high season, you may be thinking, stew?! I love a good chilled gazpacho (this refreshed us twice earlier in the month), but for me, warm and cozy bowls of stews and soups are equally as satisfying any time of the year. Besides, there’s science behind heating to cool.
A salsa is only as good as its components, and our favorite green salsa is as good — and simple — as it gets.
Broiler (or grill) blistered tomatillos, jalapeño and garlic are blended with fresh cilantro. Then, minced raw onion gets stirred in just before serving to add texture. The result is bold, vibrant and almost fruity; not too spicy; perfect consistency to dunk into or spoon over.
This post is part of a series meant to spotlight ingredients, providing nutritional background, a little culinary inspiration, and perhaps encourage you to take an adventure into new markets and cuisines.
Have you met… tomatillos?
Suspicious about why some pale green tomatoes are hidden inside a tiny crepe paper lantern? You should be. Tomatoes these are not; they’re tomatillos. Oh, and those green salsas at your local Mexican restaurant? Also tomatillo!
Although the literal translation from Spanish is “little tomato,” and another of its monikers is the Mexican husk tomato, the tomatillo (pronounced toe-muh-tee-oh), is only distant kin to that juicy red summertime favorite. Tomatillos are actually more closely related to the ground cherry, or cape gooseberry. These cousins are all members of the extensive and very ancient botanical family Solanaceae, or nightshades,* to which potato, eggplant, bell pepper and chili peppers also belong.
First cultivated by early mesoamerican civilizations, credit goes to the Aztecs for domestication. The tomatillo continues today to be a staple of Mexican and central American cuisines, and is spreading in popularity — for deliciously good reasons.
What’s so great about them?
Naturally low in calories (about 20 per 1/2-cup serving), tomatillos contain zero cholesterol, and negligible amounts of fat and sodium. This serving provides nearly 10% and 15% of your daily needs for vitamin K and vitamin C, respectively, plus about 5% of the DVs for potassium, manganese, fiber and niacin (B3).
Tomatillos contain the pigments lutein and zeaxanthin — antioxidant carotenoids associated with improved eye health and reduced risk of age-related visual decline, including macular degeneration. Research is studying potentially anti-cancer compounds called anolides found in tomatillos, which may help protect men from the formation of colon cancer cells.
In small amounts (roughly 1% to 3% of your daily needs per serving), tomatillos provide magnesium, phosphorous, iron and the trace mineral copper, plus vitamin A and several of the other B vitamins.
*Concerned about eating nightshade fruit + veg? Let us please debunk the myths.