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Simple spring salsa verde you'll put on everything

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You know how a cold Mexican beer just tastes better when you’re lounging at the beach pretending not to notice all those outrageously teeny tiny speedos and thongs? The same goes for green salsa, which just tastes better at the height of spring on the Central Coast.

Why? For one it’s called salsa verde for a reason. Its fresh, bright color instantly calls to mind the season’s green, undulating hillsides flecked with cheery mustard flowers and well-marbled cows. For another, this relatively mild, tangy salsa won’t overpower lighter seasonal dishes, like sweet corn, turkey, and avocado tacos with grilled asparagus or shrimp enchiladas topped with chives and baby arugula.

If you’re planting tomatoes now, why the heck not throw a few tomatillos into the mix, too? You can also find these waxy gems—covered in their signature halo of crinkly, paper-light skin—at local grocery stores and farmers’ market stands across the county. Here’s how I celebrate when the first batch hits the shelves at the SLO Natural Foods Co-Op: Pick out about 2 pounds of the veggies, avoiding any soggy or pierced skins. Remove skins and toss into the compost. Rinse. Slice each tomatillo from end to end, placing them all face down onto two metal baking sheets. Peel and smash four fat garlic cloves and slice one (or two) jalapeños lengthwise, removing the seeds with a blunt butter knife (or keep, if you like your salsa hot). Add the jalapeño and garlic to the pans, fitting wherever you can find room. Drizzle pans lightly with olive oil. Roast in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes.

The beauty of this recipe is in its simplicity. Sure, I’ve tried to add all sorts of superfluous ingredients to the roasting process (bell pepper, onion, heirloom tomatoes), but I have found that the heat of the pepper, tang of the tomatillo, and savory kick of the garlic need no gussying up.

After about 30 minutes, check on the pans, noting any dark brown caramelization happening underneath (that’s exactly what you want, of course). Allow the juices of the tomatillos to ooze out and thicken slightly, creating a sweet and luxurious slop. Turn over any veggies that appear to be getting too dark, giving them a quick browning on the other side. Let roast another 10 minutes or so, but use your judgment, peeking often (while “char” is chill, no one likes burnt salsa). Next, let the pans cool while you juice a few limes. If you’re feeling industrious, you could even add a little zest, too. Add the citrus components and the cooled salsa to a blender or food processor. Whirl briefly. Taste. Add salt. Enjoy! Note: You can add chopped onion, cilantro, or even a little adobo sauce at this point, depending on what you’re going for.

Like most delicious things, this salsa will taste even better the next day, and even better the day after, and so on. The idea is to have way too much of the stuff, so you can have an excuse to call over your friends, neighbors—whoever’s at hand. Before you know it, you’ll be popping open a few cold Victoria beers and claiming your own personal beach by the kiddie pool.

Hayley Thomas Cain is blowing up her pink flamingo floatation device. She can be reached at hthomas@newtimesslo.com.

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