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!