Another recipe inspired by a find in my CSA basket this week, tomatillos. I love tomatillos. They remind me of the summers I spent living in Cuernavaca, Mexico during college. Eager to learn to speak another language and immerse myself in a foreign culture, I enrolled in the Centro Bilingüe, an international school, and packed my bags.
The experiences I had those three summers were amazing. I will definitely encourage my children to study abroad when they are older. I not only learned to comprehend and speak Spanish fluently, I connected with another culture in a way I never would have been able to had it not been my home.
The people of Mexico are genuine and caring and their history is rich. One only needs to visit the beautiful city of Teōtīhuacān to feel the powerful influence of the Aztec traditions in modern day culture. In Mexico City, a chaotic and exciting place where extreme wealth and poverty collide, there is a constant reminder of the ancient Aztec state, Tenochtitlan, buried underneath the Zócalo.
I learned about Mexican history and adopted my host family and country as mine for some time. I also fell in love with the food. My Mamá, an incredibly hospitable and kind woman, prided herself on making special meals for us every day. She was a talented cook and my absolute favorite dishes were her day-long prepared Moles, Poblanos Rellenos and Enchiladas Suizas, made with salsa verde. I can’t begin to tell you how much I crave her authentic Mexican cooking from time to time.
Tomatillo salsa was a condiment she placed on the table at every meal; desayuno (breakfast), almuerzo (lunch) which was our big meal of the day at about 2:30pm and cena (light dinner or snack time in the evening). I slathered it on everything from eggs to sandwiches and carne asada. My whole palate changed those summers as I was introduced to amazing flavors that continue to shape my culinary journey to this day.
Every once in a while I whip up my own tomatillo salsa. Never quite as good as Mamá’s but, definitely delicious. I like to char all of the ingredients before blending them together to add a layer of smoky flavor. Once made, you can put it on anything you like. This time, I decided to make some vegetarian quesadillas to pair with the salsa. So good.
- TOMATILLO SALSA
- 4 medium tomatillos, husked
- 1 jalapeño, seeded, if desired
- ½ small yellow onion
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 cup cilantro, leaves and tender stems
- ½ lime, juiced
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp white vinegar, added to taste
- 8 corn tortillas
- 1 tbsp canola or olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, sliced thinly
- 4 oz maitake mushrooms, torn into 1" pieces
- 1 cup arugula
- 1 cup spinach
- 4 oz goat cheese, separated into 8 even pieces
- salt and pepper to taste
- Maldon or Fleur de Sel for garnish and flavor, optional
- TOMATILLO SALSA
- Place tomatillos, jalapeño onion and garlic on a dry skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until charred on all sides, about 8-10 minutes.
- Remove to food processor. Add cilantro, lime juice, salt and cumin and puree. Stir in white vinegar, to taste. Cover and chill, if desired, or use warm.
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add oil and garlic, stirring until fragrant, but not browned, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Add maitake mushrooms and sauté for about 5-7 minutes until soft and brown at edges.
- Add arugula and spinach. Toss to coat with the oil and combine with the mushrooms and garlic. Turn off the fire and allow the greens to wilt. Season with salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile, heat tortillas in a large, dry skillet or griddle, in batches, if needed, on one side until warmed. Turn and spread ⅛th of goat cheese on each tortilla. Once the cheese begins to melt, spread it and then add ¼ of the vegetables to 4 of the tortillas. Cover with the other tortillas to assemble your quesadilla and remove to a plate.
- Cut each quesadilla into quarters and serve with charred tomatillo salsa. Sprinkle with Maldon or Fleur de Sel for garnish and additional flavor.