Just after I graduated from college, but before I moved to Philadelphia, I spent a period of four months working as a personal assistant for a very wealthy woman who lived in Portland’s west hills. I sort of tumbled into the job, in the synchronous way that I typically do (true thing, I rarely look for jobs, for better of for worse, they just appear) and while it wasn’t always a rousing good time, I picked up a slew of useful life lessons. One thing I saw demonstrated again and again was the fact that money is rarely the key factor in a joyful life.
My boss, who lived in a gorgeous home, had a doting husband and everything she could possibly want (in the material sense) spent her days in misery. When she wasn’t actively unhappy herself, she was doing everything she could to stir up dramas among her friends and spread a sense of unease and insecurity in others. In stark contrast was her maid. Teresa was working for her on a tourist visa from Mexico and spend her days scrubbing that 7,000 square foot house from top to bottom (about every third day, she came to the end and then turned around to start the process again) and cooking food for my boss and her husband. In the evenings, she sat alone in her room, watching TV and working on needlepoint.
And yet, she was never anything but completely cheerful. We spent a lot of time together during the four months I was there. She didn’t speak any English and all I had to offer was my high school Spanish. And yet, we became friends. She taught me how to find my way around the house, a handful of new words and how to be happy no matter what the situation. And she taught me how to make this tomatillo salsa.
Sometimes she blanched the tomatillos and sometimes she roasted them. I liked the roasted salsa better. We’d eat it quesadillas, with a bit of shredded chicken and pepper jack cheese. So delicious. She never used exact proportions for the salsa, instead she just cooked by feel and adjusted the seasonings at the end to make sure everything was balanced.
With tomatillos showing up in abundance at my local farmers markets lately, I thought this might be a good recipe (and story) to share. I also thought we could all use a break from the boiling water canner (I know I need a short rest from chopping, picking and jamming).
- 1 pint tomatillos, de-husked, washed and halved
- 1 onion, cut into chunks
- 5-6 garlic cloves
- 1-2 jalapenos
- a handful of cilantro
- 1 lime
- Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees.
- Line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil and lay out the tomatillos and half the garlic and onions on it. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes.
- When it's roasted and cooled down enough to handle, squeeze the garlic out of their skins and pour the whole roasted mess (tomatillos, garlic and onions) into a blender. Add the rest of the raw garlic, the other half of the onion, a handful of cilantro, a pinch of salt, some jalapeno and a bit of lime juice. Blend until it's all combined and taste. It might need a pinch of sugar to balance the tartness.
- Delicious (and it just gets better after it sits for a little while) on burritos or chips.