I’ve joined the cult of the Hatch chili peppers. And what a cult it is – people love these things. There’s even a Hatch Chile Festival held annually to celebrate the bright little peppers. The townsfolk gather together and dance under the moonlight, praying to the ancient gods of harvest. Or at least, I assume that’s what happens.
One reason Hatch peppers are so coveted is the intolerably short season during which they are available. Typically, it’s hardly longer than a month. They blow out of New Mexico like a sudden wind in August, only to vanish from the markets by early September, gone as quickly as they came.
So imagine my delight when I found them at the store just the other day, here in mid September. These warm years are nice for the extended growing seasons. I just had to grab some while I still could, so I picked up some tomatillos and cilantro, too. If you can make a killer salsa verde with serrano chiles, surely you can make one with Hatch peppers? It turns out you can. And it’s lovely.
If you could take a dietary supplement that staves off heart disease, diabetes, and depression, you’d take it, wouldn’t you? Well, there’s growing evidence that chile peppers can do all of that and more. Researchers are becoming more and more interested in the benefits of capsaicin, the compound that gives peppers their spice. Eating capsaicin causes your body to produce endorphins (the “feel good” hormone), so basically, peppers make you happy. And there’s early research that capsaicin lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and may even regulate blood sugar. Powerful stuff.
Speaking of healthy vegetables, the tomatillo is a pretty dang good for you too. I just love tomatillos. They’re like the tomato’s exotic cousin, sweet and tangy. And though they lack the lycopene that gives the tomato its superfood status, they have some unique antioxidants of their own. They’re also low in calories, high in fiber, and contain nutrients that are great for your eyes and skin.
What I’m really trying to say is, there’s no reason to hold back when eating this salsa. The more the merrier, if you will.
And let’s talk about these chips! If I had realized how easy it was to make tortilla chips, I wouldn’t have been buying the preposterously fattening bagged kind all these years. It’s so simple, and so much healthier. They aren’t fat free (and seriously, they shouldn’t be), but they have a reasonable amount of fat. And it’s fat in its finest form – extra virgin olive oil, the stuff of myths and Mediterranean diets.
Don’t you just love when food is good and good for you?
- 10 corn tortillas, preferably stale
- 5 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 2-3 Hatch chile peppers (depending on spice preference)
- 1 pound tomatillos
- 1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- crumbled cotija cheese for serving
- juice of 1 small lime, optional
To make Salsa:
- Preheat oven broiler on High.
- Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Remove husks from tomatillos and rinse under warm water, rubbing to remove stickiness.
- Place tomatillos, peppers, onion, and garlic on prepared pan. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix vegetables to coat. Spread evenly over pan.
- Place pan in preheated oven, 2-4 inches from heat.
- Broil for 10 minutes, or until just beginning to blacken, flipping vegetables halfway through.
- Using a spatula or large spoon, transfer onions, tomatillos, and garlic to a food processor or blender to cool.
- Return Hatch peppers to the broiler until heavily blackened and blistered on both sides.
- Remove peppers to a bowl and top with a plate or lid, trapping the steam in. Allow to sit for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, remove and discard the peel from the two roasted garlic cloves.
- After peppers are done steaming, remove the stems and most of the seeds (I recommend using gloves for this step, to prevent getting capsaicin on your skin).
- Add Hatch peppers and cilantro to the food processor with the other vegetables and puree until large chunks are broken up.
- Add salt, pepper, and lime juice to taste. Pulse to mix.
- To serve, transfer salsa to a bowl and top with crumbled cheese.
To make Chips:
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.
- Using a pastry brush or basting brush, coat both sides of each tortilla with olive oil.
- Lightly sprinkle salt on each tortilla.
- Stack tortillas. Cut the stack in half, then cut each half in thirds (to make six chips per tortilla).
- Spread tortilla pieces on prepared baking sheets and bake for roughly 20 minutes, or until crispy.