The Gardening Season Swan Song: Roasted Green Tomato Salsa. - Something Edible
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The Gardening Season Swan Song: Roasted Green Tomato Salsa.

The Gardening Season Swan Song: Roasted Green Tomato Salsa.

Abstract: The autumn freeze is hitting the Great Plains. Rather than leave a mess of green veggies out to rot, I took in one last harvest. With the majority of the haul being green tomatoes and chiles, It seemed only right to roast 'em all and throw together a tangy and spicy green salsa.

Purpose: I gave up on jarred salsa a long time ago. As I almost always have the proper components on-hand, it just makes sense (and tastes better) to make my own. My formula for homemade salsa usually involves vine-ripe or even canned tomatoes. Right now however, the fall freeze has put a whole lotta green produce in my lap. If said freeze is hard enough, it can be a use-it-or-lose-it situation; so it's a necessity to have a functional and practical recipe to dispatch a bunch of unripe produce at once. This green salsa eschews tomatillos which are expensive and as rare as hen's teeth in these parts, and utilizes the abundance of green tomatoes that occur about this same time every year.

Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -

The Veggie Roast

  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano (Regular o. is fine too.)
  • 1/4 tsp Black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Vidalia (or other sweet) onion Make it a big one.
  • 8 oz assorted mild chiles (like banana and poblano). Roasted (see notes).
  • 4 oz jalapeno chiles Roasted (see notes).
  • 4 lbs green tomatoes Quartered with stem ends removed (renders ~ 3 lbs usable).
  • The "Dressing"

  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp cilantro Dried; use twice as much if fresh.
  • 2 Tbsps tequila
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsps demerara (raw) sugar
  • 2 Tbsps key lime juice
  • 2 cloves raw garlic minced
  • 10 cloves roasted garlic That's about 1 bulb's worth.
  • 1 fresh jalapeno chile A big one; minced with seeds removed.
  • 1/4 cup green onion minced

  • For the veggies, preheat oven to 450F. With a mortar & pestle or spice grinder, grind 1 tsp of salt, black pepper, fennel, cumin, oregano, and black peppercorns. Toss with the onions.  Put into a large stainless steel oven-safe pan & drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil.  Roast onion for 15 minutes.  Add tomatoes and roast for another 30 minutes. If you're needing to roast your garlic, wrap it in foil and throw it in the oven now as well. After time has elapsed, remove everything to let cool. This is a good time to roast and prep the chiles.

    For the dressing, whisk 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp salt, cilantro, tequila, cider vinegar, demerara sugar, lime juice, minced garlic, roasted garlic, and diced jalapeno.

    Dump broiled veg and dressing into a food processor.  Buzz long enough to incorporate, leaving some chunks.  Stir or pulse-in minced green onion.  Chill for 3-5 hours (overnight would be better) and adjust seasoning (if necessary) before serving. 


    • Green tomatoes are rather thin-skinned and their seeds often aren't even developed. Don't waste your time trying to skin or seed your berries; it won't really affect the final texture of the salsa.
    • Roasting takes twice as long with green tomatoes as it does reds.  The initial time is needed to soften up those rock-hard fruits, and the second leg is where the flavor-building actually takes place.
    •  Roasting chiles is easy. Evenly burn the crap out of them over high heat or flame, and then move them to the sweat box.  The moisture that builds up between the flesh and the burnt and brittle skin in that sealed environment is what makes them easy to peel.
    • Don't get real picky about removing all the char from your chiles. Some varieties are more thin-skinned than others. Any remaining crud that can't be peeled away can just be chalked up to keeping the flavor profile "interesting".
    • Where a little bit of burnt is ok, keep the amount of chile seeds to a minimum. They're usually bitter and not very fun to get caught in your teeth.
    • Use thermal heat and a knowledge of plant anatomy to control the fire in your sauce.  The best way to play with the chemical fire is to make the salsa as wrote, then blend diced, fresh jalapenos one at a time to the finished product and then taste to see what you think.
    • If a flavor in your salsa seems to be missing, it's likely either salt, sugar, or acid that's absent. Let it all cool in the fridge for a day and then taste to see what needs to change, then add more vinegar, raw sugar or salt to adjust to your liking.
    • The booze is optional, but y'know, ethyl alcohol exposes flavor compounds in tomatoes that are usually not detectable. The first time you leave it out, I bet you'll know it's missing just a little something.

    Results: As I've mentioned in a previous post from long ago, the technique I use to make this salsa is akin to a "hot salad". Vegetables are roasted, and then combined with what amounts to a salad dressing. The method is something I've incrementally refined over the years, and I think it works better than "throw-it-all-in-a-pot" cooked salsas because fresh flavors don't get muddied in a stew. Conversely, an all-fresh or raw salsa can sometimes be watery or unnecessarily raw-tasting, especially with unripened produce such as green tomatoes.

    This is a recipe born of necessity, but that's not to say it doesn't work really well. After all, tomatoes and tomatillos are botanical cousins, and the fleshy semi-seedless innards of a green tomato are very similar in texture to tomatillos as well. This salsa is my go-to for just about any bit of pork, and it's also swell with a grilled cut of mild white fish such as tilapia or halibut. Not feeling particularly carnivorous? It's also good layered into a quesadilla or simply topping a chip. More than a red tomato salsa, the tangy and slightly sweet flavor of the tomato really shines. All the same, I like to keep a jar of both red and green in my fridge to keep my taste buds guessing between spoonfuls when a ‘light’ dinner is a big plate of nachos. By roasting the produce and layering all those simple flavors, this easy recipe is the silver lining to the seasonal garden shut-down.  That said, I won't be held responsible if you end up picking next years' first tomato crop a bit early. wink

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