Thursday, August 5, 2010

Somebody, please Salsify Me! The dumbing down of America's taste buds!

It all starts with the mighty green tomatillo.... the husky forgotten cousin of the bright and shiny red tomato or jitomate. Salsa verde has it's appeal on your table as a dipping accoutrement for corn tortilla chips or maybe even a sauce to spoon over your taquitos, empanadas, gorditas or your Sunday roast chicken. Some people do not care for the taste of tomatillos.... and it can be awkward when working with a sticky green fruit that you have to husk.....and then wonder, "What do I do with this thing"? (pause.......we will come back to the pendulant green fruit in a minute)


If you go out for Mexican food in this country, you can rarely find the good stuff. Most of what is plated up for us is laden with salt, impregnated with too much cheese and smothered with sour cream. The typical Mexican dish has been watered down to serve the dull taste buds of many Americans. Besides Chef Rick Bayless, who has worked tirelessly to reinvigorate Mexican cuisine and enlighten us with moles and other traditional Mexican dishes, it is difficult to find culturally competent quality food outside of the kitchens of Mexican families and certain fine restaurants.  Look at what Taco Bell has done for our senses? They have dumbed down our nations intelligence and convinced many of us that burritos, churros and Mexican pizza are typical foods found on a kitchen table at lunchtime in Mexico. 

I spent one long hot summer living down in Oaxaca Mexico. Never once was I served a churro, burrito or a Mexican Pizza. I was given beef stews, chicken mole, eggs served with huitlacoche,(cool fungus found growing on corn), avocado ice, fresh stone ground tortillas cooked over a comal, pure cajeta -(a lovely burnt milk caramel sauce), chocolate drinks fashioned with freshly ground cane sugar, almonds and cinnamon, plus who knows how many different types of salsas I ingested. If you have the opportunity to spend some time in a Mexican kitchen, I guarantee that you will see authentic foods being made with love. And I promise you that that recipe they are using does not come from a cookbook, it is a learned recipe, shared amongst mothers, sister and dear friends.  

I am currently undertaking a project where I am working with Latina women and recording their traditional recipes.We are working collaboratively to create a cookbook, one that records the recetas sagradas or sacred recipes that these women carried with them over the border.  I know so many woman who will never have the chance to ever go back to Mexico their homeland.  What they do have is their ability to recreate their native foods right here in America. It is my job to make sure their recipes are written down and brought to the attention of us foodies who so want to taste the traditional foods of Mexico and can appreciate the love and stories behind them. 

Tomatillo Salsa/Salsa Verde
1 lb. fresh tomatillos, fresh means, no yellow tomatillos, you want nice vibrant green tomatillos.
1 Fresh Onion Cut into eighths 
Handful of cilantro
Squeeze of fresh lime juice
Salt to taste
1 hot pepper of choice, de-veined and de-seeded - if you want more spice, leave in. I like using fresh Jalapeños.

Roast your chiles, onions and tomatillos under the broiler or in a heavy bottomed pan. It does not take long for your tomatillos to blacken under the broiler, about 5 minutes. Turn so both sides have a chance under the broiler. If using a heavy bottomed pan, I would opt for cast iron... as it took a long time to clean my Le Crueset. Throw all your ingredients... minus the onion, into the blender. Pulse 4-5 times. Finely chop onion on the side and then add into the mix, salt to taste. Delicious... make sure you use green tomatillos. The yellowing ones are not as tasty and can create an unpleasant taste in your salsa. 

I am visiting my friends carrito... or food cart this week, she is going to show me what she has cooking and hopefully teach me a thing or two. I am looking forward to sharing more of these authentic finds with you during the coming months. For now... I am preparing for my sister's wedding and attempting to make a gorgeous cake for the reception. Keep your fingers crossed folks!


20 comments:

  1. From your lips. Let's not dull the senses!

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  2. I am Rick Bayless' hugest fan (maybe), and his newest book, Fiesta at Rick's, just arrived in my mailbox last week. I spent the first 30 years of my life in AZ (I'm now ashamed to admit) and celebrated quinceanera and other wonderful family fiestas with my neighbors and classmates. Good, amazing, dedicated Americans (by choice or default) who happened to have recent Latino culture and experiences to share. I heartily support your work recording the food history and culture of one of our most amiable, family-oriented, passionate-about-life planet co-inhabitants. To this day, I still make tamales the way my neighbor women taught me, and say a blessing for them and their families as I do.

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  3. So nice of you to do this.
    Very true, many of us around the world only see a very small picture of the world's cuisine.

    With the blogging world, we can now see more and more types of food from different countries and culture.

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  4. this is my absolute favorite way to use tomatillos.... or tortilla soup... or enchiladas... or.... ok I'll stop I just love them!

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  5. I enjoy certain americanized versions of mexican food, but the real stuff is always the best. it's so much lighter and has so much more flavor than most of the stuff you find today. and tomatillo salsa? i make it at home and it rocks. we also make our own red salsa. jarred stuff sucks.

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  6. I think you've taken on an important project there. I haven't had much authentic Mexican food mainly because it's just not available here (even though there are plenty of Mexican restaurants with Mexican owners). Most of them here serve Americanized food because that's what people expect and buy. I applaud your dedication to this! (And love your salsa recipe too.)

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  7. ahhh the joy of tomatillos.....they are just not appreciated outside of Mexico...your salsa sounds wonderful, and I grew up on Tex Mex and that is pretty darn authentic.

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  8. Great post what you said is so true. . I really think what you're doing is wonderful. Good luck with your project.

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  9. I completely forgot to grow tomatillos in my garden this year. Next year I will have to add them because Salsa Verde is one of my favorites.

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  10. I went to a Tuesday Night Supper Club that my friend's daughter belongs to, and it was a total Rick Bayless menu for about 30 people. This event will be on a future blog. Right now, I have to deal with my kitchen refrig, which stopped working, and a sick dog!

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  11. Thanks y'all... I am glad that I could spark a bit of interest into this topic. Pam, I love what you said above. Learning to make tamales with another woman is quite an experience. One I am sure you will never forget. I enjoy Americanized versions of Mexican food as well, but when I am served up a plate of fresh hot garanchitas with beans, Kick A#$ salsa and just a pinch of cojita cheese made by hand by my dear friend from Mexico... I sigh like a baby.... Why? Because it tastes so darn good. I would love to belong to a Supper Club that served up a Rick Bayless menu...that is awesome.You are lucky lady Becky!

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  12. I have used tomatillo but never tried roasting it. Will do it the next time.

    We had some really nice Mexican food in New Mexico. It is fresh and vibrant and very little of the cheese.

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  13. The best salsa ever. I used Rick's recipe and canned about 8 jars last year. And the tomatillos in my garden are taking over again. Yea!!

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  14. This is indeed a grand salsa. Taco Bell can be scary! All of our restaurants have the same two sauces on what "seems" to be 80 dishes. Best of luck with the work - it is so important to document the authentic foods and history. Blogging has helped knowledge of global foods. Many thanks for the award. I am never timely, but I actually managed to pay it forward tody.

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  15. I don't see tomatillos in local markets....the salsa looks really awesome!

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  16. OK, so this is going to sound funny. A good Mexican / Tex-Mex restaurant in Vermont. Candelero's. Huge tequila menu and the good salsas and sauces. The menu has changed a bit in the last few years, but nothing else really stacks up for exactly the reasons you say.

    Jason

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  17. Love your post! I wholeheartedly agree that what is being served as "Mexican" really has no roots in Mexico. The woman who started out as my housecleaner and who has become my friends cooks with me on occasion. She has brought me some wonderful Mexican dishes that have been handed down for generations. No recipes really, she just knows what to do. Her Green Chile Tamales are the best in the world!
    For Tomatillo Salsa, I put the tomatillos on the grill! Love the charred bits that it brings to the salsa. Can't wait to get your book!!

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  18. Well Megan, I have to agree with what you just said and all the best to your project! I've learned alot too eversince blogging one year ago. And I'm not going to stop learning. Best wishes to both of us. LOL! hehe...
    Cheers, kristy

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  19. I love tomatillo's! Now I am hoping and praying they have some at farmer's market tomorrow so I can make that salsa verde. Your project sounds awesome, good for you! Keep us updated!

    Gree

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