2004-05-13 / Arts & Entertainment

Ask BETTY

Dear Betty,
Ask BETTY Dear Betty,

What are tomatillos?

Volga, S.D.

Tomatillos lend their fresh, zesty flavor to a host of Mexican dishes and salsas. In Mexico, they’re called "green tomatoes," but tomatillos aren’t really tomatoes — just a close relative. Tangy, with a touch of citrus and about the size of a walnut, tomatillos are apple green and covered with a papery husk.

For the best flavor, choose tomatillos that are small but fill their husk. Before using, removed the husks and wash the tomatillos to remove any sticky residue.

I like to make homemade salsa from the tomatoes in my garden. Are there other ways to use it besides with chips and tacos?

Appleton, Wis.

Your salsa sounds delicious! Whether homemade or store bought, salsa is a flavorful, colorful pick-me-up that trans-forms everyday dishes into something special. While tomato-based salsa is the most familiar, fruit salsas are easy to make and work wonders with grilled fish, chicken, omelets and even breakfast breads like coffee cake.

What puts the "salsa" in these simple but versatile sauces? Salsa usually is a combination of chopped fresh veggies (such as tomatoes, onions and green bell peppers) or fresh fruits (such as pears, mangoes, pineapple or berries), which is then seasoned with lime juice, chopped fresh cilantro and chiles to give the mixture zing.

Experiment with some of these salsa combos to find the ones you like best:

• Stir tomato or fruit salsa into sour cream for a super quick dip for French fries or tortilla chips, a southwestern topping for baked potatoes, burgers or veggie burgers, or as a spread for wraps or sandwiches.

• Mix together canned corn, drained black beans, tomato salsa and a little fresh-chopped cilantro for a cold south- of-the-border side dish or meatless filling for tacos, quesadillas or wraps.

• Dress up packaged garlic mashed potatoes with tomato salsa, grated Ched-dar or pepperjack cheese, and chopped fresh green onions.

• Turn ordinary grilled chicken breasts into chicken satay with a Thai-influenced sauce of tomato salsa, peanut butter, lime juice, a dash of soy sauce and a little grated fresh gingerroot. In the final minutes of grilling, brush on the sauce — serve any extra for dipping.

• Wake up homemade or deli potato salad. Just stir in tomato salsa, chopped fresh cilantro, green bell pepper and red onion.

Betty Crocker

Want more ideas? www.BettyCrocker.com

Questions? 1-888-ASK BETTY

Timely Tips

BROWN SUGAR - To soften brown sugar or hardened cookies, place a slice of fresh bread in the containers with the items to be softened. This works for home-baked cookies, too. To speed the process up, microwave containers for short periods of time. Otherwise, two to four hours in a storage area are sufficient.

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BAKED POTATOES - Wash potatoes (white or sweet) well. Pat dry with paper towel. Spray the potatoes with cooking oil, prick the peel, and place in a plastic sandwich bag. Bake in mi-crowave five to 10 minutes, depending on the size and number of potatoes.

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ICE SCRAPER - To clean ice off windshields or burnt-on food off pots, use a cup or jar lid that is strong enough to apply firm pressure. Use a circular motion, making sure the lid’s edges touch the surface.

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GREASE REMOVER - To remove burnt-on grease from a pan, soak it in warm water using a teaspoon of baking soda as scouring powder.

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SHINY FLOORS - Instead of using commercial waxes on my floors to shine them up, I mix a solution of 1/2 cup white vinegar with a gallon of warm water. It works just as well and is a lot less expensive.

EDITOR’S NOTE: All of today’s tips come to us from Melwina W. of To-peka, Kansas.

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