What do you get when you open the fridge and see two week’s worth of tomatillos from your CSA and a dozen ripe habanero peppers that your husband picked from the backyard garden? Answer: A lesson in Scoville Units and a tomatillo salsa that is fiery hot!
This tomatillo salsa, or salsa verde, was simple to make and the addition of habanero pepper added quite a kick!
This innocent-looking habanero pepper is one of the hottest peppers on earth. The Scoville scale is a measurement of the spicy heat (capsaicin concentration) of chili peppers or other spicy foods. Most habaneros rate between 200,000 and 300,000 on the Scoville scale. To put that into perspective, a jalapeno pepper rates 1,000 to 4,000. My husband didn’t know this when he planted “some hot peppers” in our garden this year!
I posted a photo of my tomatillos to our Meal Makeover Moms Facebook page and asked for ideas for how to use them. Salsa verde, or tomatillo salsa, was the overwhelming favorite, so I looked at all the recipes recommended and came up with my own.
I liked the idea of roasting the tomatillos, so I roasted them with my habaneros and a clove of garlic.
I was working with our two Boston University interns when we roasted the peppers. It wasn’t until we took a tiny bite that we realized that these were no ordinary hot peppers. Our (unlucky) intern, Whitney, seeded and chopped one and started coughing, and when I went over to investigate I started coughing as well. It’s hard to describe just how pungent and hot these are!
We decided to puree the habanero peppers in a food processor with enough water to blend and then freeze small amounts to use (carefully!) for future dishes. We placed nickel-size drops on a foil-lined cookie sheet and placed in the freezer. Then, we put the habanero “coins” in a zip-top bag back in the freezer. It was a bit messy since the mixture didn’t get rock hard, but it worked. I have already added a couple of “nickels” to a big pot of chili, and it was great.
Tomatillo salsa in the food processor. Be sure to process the ingredients well so the habanero is evenly distributed!
I posted a photo of the cute little orange peppers in my garden on our Meal Makeover Moms’ Facebook page to see if I was the only one who didn’t recognize what they were, and I got almost 40 comments and a few warnings! Here’s a sample:
Mary Ford Glickman: “habanero! “some hot peppers” is an understatement. smile emoticon Wash hands after handling and before touching face or any other part! (or wear gloves)”
Lisette Deida-Moore: “Habanero peppers…definitely one of the spiciest on the planet…there is one other pepper that is even hotter…”
Christa Wilson: “Yes, habeneros. One time I picked some from a community garden and didn’t know what they were. I chopped them up and put them on top of pizza. We all bit in to them at the same time…by “we” I mean two adults and two small children. Thankfully I hadn’t fed any to the baby yet. There was so much screaming and crying and eye watering and nose running by all 4 of us! It was like the scene in “Dumb and Dumber” when Lloyd and Harry put peppers on the hit man’s sandwich. This was about 3 years ago and they still don’t trust me when I serve pizza.”
- 10 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 habanero chili pepper
- ⅓ cup fresh cilantro leaves
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ small red onion, cut into ¼-inch dice (about ¼ cup)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- Place the tomatillos, garlic, and chili pepper on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and place under a broiler until the skins blacken and tomatillos soften. Flip and broil the other sides until skins blacken. Remove from oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
- Place the roasted tomatillos, garlic, and one quarter of the roasted habanero in a food processor, along with the cilantro and kosher salt, and process until smooth. Taste, and add a bit more habanero if you like things spicy!
- Add the onion and lime juice and pulse a few times to combine.
Let us know if you try this recipe and if you dare to use a habanero pepper. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!!