Once you’ve lived in a city for long enough, you develop a grocery shopping routine. Here’s how mine goes, a mix of highbrow and low, seasonal and, well, less so.
On Fridays, I go to the farmers market a few blocks from my place. It’s open year-round and even in the snow, I try to pick up at least a few apples. These days, my must haves are radishes and young lacinato kale from J&A Bialas farm, a boule from She Wolf (I’m partial to their sprouted spelt and polenta), and salted butter from Ronnybrook Farm.
In contrast, there’s also my corner fruit and vegetable guy. I get from him bags of lemons and clamshells of berries and the occasional mango. The quality is about the same as a middling store, and the cart’s selling point is convenience, price, and lack of a long line. I eat enough raspberries in a single sitting that even if they’ve been sitting outside, under an umbrella but still subject to the elements, they’ll last long enough to make it a day in the fridge before I gobble them up.
There’s a Whole Foods just behind my corner guy, and a mere 3 blocks from my apartment, and for sheer proximity it’s my primary source for fridge, freezer, and pantry. My wallet has seen happier days.
And then there’s the slightly sketchy Associated across from my apartment. Based on appearance alone, I avoided the place for the first year, but when I was looking for off-season plums for a project I was working on, my friend Adeena suggested I pop in to the store because she said that strangely enough, they always have plums. And she was right. No matter the season, there’s always a huge pile of plums in the center of their fruit display, if you can call it that. Sure, they’re often hard as a rock, but they’re there when you need them.
I also found another use for the store: cheap produce that is just about a minute past its prime. If I want to make a compote (which these days I mix into my morning yogurt), they usually have just the thing: slightly squashed blueberries, bruised apples, and the like. Sure, you have to heat up your pot the moment you get home, but 30 minutes later, you’re all set. Soups and sauces lends themselves to ragtag tomatoes. And, finally, today’s recipe, tomatillo salsa. You can’t choose your tomatillos at my Associated – they’re prepackaged on a small styrofoam tray for a dollar – and you’ll probably have to chuck 2 out of every 10 for being a bit squishy, but the rest are perfect.
A little time blistering in the broiler alongside jalapeños and garlic, a quick whir with citrus and cilantro, and the tomatillos are transformed into something you will want to douse on everything. Spread it on an avocado and roast beef sandwich? Yup. Mix it with a little oil and lime juice and make a slaw? Yup. Top sunny side up eggs? Yup. Yup. Yup.
Roasted tomatillo salsa
Adapted from Epicurious/Gourmet. This salsa is quite spicy, so if your palate runs mild, start with half the number of jalapeños. This would be great with some lime juice.
Makes 4 cups
– 1 1/2 lbs fresh tomatillos (about 8 medium)
– 6 fresh jalapeño
– 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
– 1/2 C cilantro
– 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
– 1 T kosher salt
Broil. Preheat broiler and line a shallow pan or baking sheet with aluminum foil. Remove tomatillo husks and rince under warm water to remove stickiness. Broil tomatillos, jalapeños, and garlic on the pan/sheet 1-2 inches from heat, turning once, until tomatillos are softened and charred, 7-10 minutes.
Puree. Peel garlic and pull tops off of jalapeños. Puree all ingredients, including onion and salt, in a blender.