If you've ever been to Mexico, you've surely stumbled upon a kind of salsa called "Salsa Verde" (or "Green Salsa" in English). Mexicans eat it with almost everything: tacos, quesadillas (tortillas with cheese), tortillas, snacks, chips, etc. It's most likely the most popular salsa around here. Some families even have to make a large batch just to have enough for the week.
Whether you're a chef, or just curious, this is a recipe I really recommend. It's easy and quick, so just try it and you will never want to buy that brownish-looking bottled or canned salsa again. My mother and I have made it thousands of times, so it's completely foolproof. :) Don't be shy and enjoy.
Step 1: Ingredients.
Few ingredients are needed, and most of them are fairly easy to acquire. I'll describe them and provide the needed amounts for each one. This should be enough for 1 liter or around 1 quart of salsa; make the proper conversions if you need any other quantity.
Tomatillo (750 grams or 1.6 lb)
Also called tomato or green tomato (tomate verde in Spanish). This is the main ingredient as it's the body and color of the salsa. They are bright green tomatoes covered in a paper-like dull husk. They are really easy to get in Mexico and Latin America, and I've heard that you can also get them in the United States (I'm sorry but I don't know about anywhere else :(). See the first picture if you don't know them.
Serrano pepper (10 to 30 peppers, up to you)
Serrano peppers (or chile serrano in Spanish) are the original peppers used in salsa verde (see note below). They're a tiny pepper, only 1" or 3" long (50-75mm). They're 2 or 3 times hotter than the popular jalapenos, so 10 peppers should do a soft salsa, while 30 peppers will do a spicy one... but don't be afraid to experiment, in fact I advise you to. I'm using around 25 peppers, which is what I discovered that I like the most.
Serranos come in many colors, but use green anytime you can in order to keep the salsa verde, well... verde.
Note: I've read some recipes that use jalapenos instead of serranos. Honestly I've never seen anyone (nor friends or restaurants) using jalapenos in salsa verde so I don't know where that came from. I would much rather use serranos, but if you can't find them... I guess that jalapenos could make a good replacement.
Coriander (a bunch or handful)
You will need a good bunch of coriander, also known as cilantro or chinese parsley. Coriander is a green leafy herb, with a distinctive strong smell and taste. I like to use a complete bunch since I really enjoy the herbal taste given by coriander, but some people use barely a few spoons. I recommend the whole bunch, but again, don't be afraid to experiment.
Onion (half an onion)
Use about half a big onion. Everybody knows onions, right?
Garlic (two large cloves)
It gives salsa a really good taste, and it's not even noticeable. If you don't like it too much, well leave one out.
Salt (half a teaspoon)
Add salt to taste. I think that it's about a teaspoon but the fact is that I never measure it. Just taste it and add salt accordingly.
You will need to add some water for consistency. Half a cup may do, but you will have to add less if the tomatillos are too watery.
Step 2: Tools.
A measuring cup.
Well... just in case. You may want to measure if you're not sure about the amounts.
Three will be enough. I use one to disinfect the coriander and another to clean the tomatillos. You will also need a bowl with a lid that is big enough to store your finished product (as I said earlier, this recipe produces around 1 liter).
Can be useful to peel the onion and garlic.
A molcajete, blender or food processor.
Traditionally, the ingredients are mashed by hand with a molcajete. A molcajete is basically a mortar and pestle made out of stone. The stone gives food -speecially salsas- a nice flavor (something called seasoning), but they may be difficult to get outside Mexico. If you can get one, use it, if not, any blender or food processor is just as good. I'm lazy so I will use a blender.
A comal, cooking pan or baking tray.
A comal is basically a flat surface made out of steel or iron over which you heat, cook or roast food. I always use a comal, but I think that you could use any steel cooking pan or baking tray instead. If you try it and it works, please let me know.
Step 3: Wash, Disinfect and Rinse.
Tomatillos: Remove the husk by peeling it off like a banana, pinch it and then spin in order to separate it from the tomatillo. It's really easy and you will get the hang of it after a few tries. Peel them all off, place them in a large bowl and discard the husks (or make compost!). Sometimes tomatillos are dirty, so wash and rinse several times under tap water. Dry and leave them aside for a while.
Serrano peppers: Pinch the stem and pull it from the pepper. It should come off easily. Wash and rinse a couple of times. You could remove the seeds if you don't like your salsa too hot, but serranos are so little that it may be a pain... if you want to try it, go ahead. Don't forget to wash your hands after touching them and NEVER touch your eyes or you will feel the ultimate PAIN!
Coriander. Remove all the old or whithered leaves and trim the stems off but not completely, you will want to leave a few inches. Rinse all the dirt off and then place it in a bowl with water to disinfect it. Follow your disinfectant instructions.
Onion and garlic. Peel them both and reserve.
Step 4: Roast Your Ingredients.
The coriander will take a few minutes to disinfect, so take out your comal or cooking pan and place it over the furnace at low or medium heat. Let it warm for a few minutes.
We want to kind of roast the tomatillos and serranos, which is a HUGE flavor enhancer. Some people boil them, but roasting preserves much of the color and adds a lot of flavor; therefore, I really recommend roasting over boiling. Tomatillos don't need cooking, so don't worry.
When your comal is hot, carefully place your tomatillos and serranos, and don't use any oil. Let the contact surface darken and then carefully spin it until most surfaces are nicely roasted. Careful, they're really hot! Be careful not to overheat the tomatillos or they will get mushy and dull, eventually they will open, leak, and make a mess (oh joy, it's hard to clean too). Don't worry about it too much as this may take a while, and if you're careful it won't happen at all.
On the other side, if you're too worried about the color of your salsa try not to overheat them or they will get kinda dull and your salsa verde will become a little less colorful, but this doesn't affect the flavor.
After they're all nicely roasted (see the photo) you're ready for the next step!
Step 5: Finishing Touches.
If you haven't already, pour the water from your coriander and dry it with a clean towel. All your ingredients are ready, so take your molcajete, blender or food processor and a bowl to store your product.
Toss everything inside the blender: the coriander, tomatillos, serranos, onion and garlic. Add some salt and a bit of water, and blend it until everything is chopped and integrated. Be careful not to add too much or too little water, we want to get a soft, thick, nice salsa. Add as much water as you feel it's needed, there's no set rule here... just don't thin it too much.
Taste it and add more salt if needed. Some people add lemon or lime juice in this step, so feel free to try it. I don't do it, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't. Taste it again and season to taste.
Your salsa is ready! It's really that easy. Pour it inside a bowl and eat it right away, or read the next step if you want to store it.
Step 6: Storing Your Salsa.
Store your salsa in a bowl with a lid inside your fridge. It will last around two weeks in a pretty good shape, but since this is instructables I will go deeper; most of this information is good for any other mexican salsa and may help you decide how much salsa you should make:
First day: Your salsa will be at its best. If you're holding a party or reunion, make your salsa earlier that same day. At the end of the day, you can store spare salsa in a bowl with a lid inside your fridge.
Days 2-4: Your salsa verde will keep most of its flavor but will not be as good as the first day. Some people don't like cold salsa, so you can warm a small amount inside the microwave for 20 or 30 seconds prior to eating.
First week: I advise you to eat all of your salsa within the first week, but it will still taste pretty good after it so don't worry too much. After a week it may loose some color and hotness, and if it dries out just add more water and mix.
Second week: It will last around two weeks (or even three) if stored properly. At this point it will loose most of its hotness and may turn a dull green, but it will still be great to cook chilaquiles. It won't decompose easily, but discard it whenever you don't feel comfortable with its taste, looks or smell anymore.
Step 7: Let's Eat!
Salsa verde goes great with a lot of things, here are some ideas:
- If you're holding a party, set a plate with salsa verde and chips or fried corn tortillas. A classic.
- Most people I know like it with meat. Try it.
- Get some tortillas (corn, if possible) fill with some meat, avocado, and add some salsa and lemon. You have just made yourself a basic taco!
- Mash some avocado and add a little salsa, lemon and salt. This is the fastest guacamole ever.
- I eat it with anything that has potatoes. Baked, boiled or mashed potatoes are a few favorites.
- It's really good with scrambled eggs or tortilla espanola.
- And of course, my favorite: fill a tortilla with cheese and heat until melted. This is the base of quesadillas, responsibles of all my body fat.
These are just a few ideas, have fun finding more! If there's any idea you would like to add, please leave a comment.
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