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Farmers market report: Tomatillos are in season. We have recipes.

Farmers market report: Tomatillos are in season. We have recipes.
Tomatillos grown by Jimenez Family Farm in Santa Ynez. (David Karp / For The Times)

What’s in season: A vibrant shade of green, tomatillos look like tomatoes hidden under a paper-like husk. A cousin of the tomato and the Cape gooseberry, tomatillos are known by a variety of names, including husk tomatoes, jam berries and Mexican green tomatoes. Peel back the flesh to find a firm, slightly sticky fruit with a scent reminiscent of freshly picked herbs. Tomatillos can be found much of the year, but their main season generally ranges from May through October. Allowed to mature, the vivid green shade might shift to yellow, red and even purple.

What to cook: In Spanish, tomatillo means “little tomato.”  The fruit has a sweet-tart flavor, with a gentle but assertive acidity similar to plum, apple and citrus. Cooking sweetens the flavor of the fruit, softening its acidity, and tomatillos lend themselves to a variety of cooking methods. Roast or sauté the fruit, serving it diced or puréed as a sauce alongside pork, chicken, fish or pasta. Grill tomatillo wedges and serve with grilled shrimp and tortillas, or use the colorful fruit in vibrant salsas, green enchiladas or as part of a rich batch of chile verde.

What’s on the horizon: Sweet bell peppers, typically in season from late summer through October, are showing up now.

SPAGHETTI WITH GREEN SAUCE

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Total time: 20 minutes | Serves 2

1/2 pound spaghetti

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 mild Anaheim pepper or 1 jalapeno, stemmed and seeded

8 tomatillos, peeled

4 large cloves garlic, chopped

1/3 cup cilantro leaves

1/2 onion, diced

1/4 pound Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)

1. Bring large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add salt and spaghetti and stir for a good minute so spaghetti strands don't stick together. After 12 minutes, fish a strand of spaghetti out with a fork and run it under cold water. If spaghetti is tender and not firm or hard, it is ready. (If you haven't finished preparing sauce, just turn heat off under pot of spaghetti and let it stay hot until sauce is finished.)

2. As spaghetti cooks, cut chile into 1/4-inch strips. Hold strips in bunched up pile and chop crosswise into 1/8-inch pieces. Set aside. Cut stems from tomatillos and slice tomatillos in 1/4 inch slices. Hold each sliced tomatillo together and slice into small pieces crosswise.

3. Place garlic, cilantro, onion, pepper and tomatillos in small saucepan and set aside. Just before draining spaghetti, warm green sauce 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat; this isn't to be cooked, just barely warmed so spaghetti stays hot.

4. Drain spaghetti into colander and shake colander to remove as much excess water as possible. Combine spaghetti and warmed sauce in mixing bowl and serve. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Each serving: 595 calories; 583 mg sodium; 19 mg cholesterol; 10 grams fat; 101 grams carbohydrates; 27 grams protein; 1.25 grams fiber.

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