Today would have been Richard McGary’s birthday, and so it is a fitting day to post his recipe for salsa verde. Which I finally made, seven years after he posted it. The excuse that I have is that fresh Mexican produce is hard to come by here in the Netherlands. But now I’ve found a local greenhouse grower that sells different kinds of fresh peppers as well as tomatillos. I am so glad that I made this salsa, because it is wonderful. Recipes that use the salsa will follow soon.
Tomatillos are berries that are smaller than tomatoes and larger than most berries. They are enveloped in a husk and when you remove the husk they are a bit sticky underneath. Their flavor is very bright. If you can’t find them fresh, you can also buy them canned.
Green chillies are essential for the flavor of this salsa. How many you use and of what type is a matter of personal preference. You could use a green bell pepper to avoid all heat, but some heat is what makes this a Mexican sauce. The traditional peppers to use for this are Serrano peppers. I could not order them, so I use Poblanos and Jalapeños instead. In terms of heat, that means that my salsa verde is quite a bit less spicy than Richard’s. But to my palate it was perfect this way.
The hotness of chilli peppers is measured using the Scoville scale, named after its creator, American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville. This method was established in 1912. In the test, the capsaicinoids (the compound that makes peppers hot) are diluted until you can no longer distinguish the taste from a bell pepper. The SHU number tells you how many times it has to be diluted so you can no longer perceive the heat. Most of the heat is in the white part near the seeds, not in the seeds themselves. So you can reduce the heat of a pepper a lot by eliminating the white part. For a Poblano, I can hardly detect any heat in the green flesh. The Scoville heat of the peppers I mentioned is as follows:
- Poblano: 1,000 – 1,500 SHU
- Jalapeño: 2,500 – 8,000 SHU
- Serrano: 10,000 – 23,000 SHU
So you can tell that by substituting Serranos with Poblanos and Jalapeños, my version is quite a bit less hot.
There are two main types of salsa verde in Mexican cooking: salsa verde cruda (raw) and salsa verde cocida (cooked). The the cooked version the ingredients can be either grilled or boiled. In Richard’s recipe, they are grilled. This adds some nice charring flavors.
green chiles to taste; I used 4 Poblano and 2 Jalapeño; Richard used 4 Serrano
9 tomatillos, husked
4 cloves garlic, in peel (I used a garlic bulb)
1 small onion, peeled and halved
1 tsp salt
5 grams (1/4 cup) fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and arrange the green peppers, tomatillos, garlic, and onion in a single layer.
(You can’t use parchment paper in this case, because the broiler is too hot.)
When the broiler is hot, place the baking sheet close to it and broil until the vegetables are lightly charred, about 5 minutes.
Turn and broil the other side for the same amount of time.
Peel the garlic and discard the skin.
Remove and discard the stems of the peppers. Do not remove the white part that is attached to the stems along with them, because that contains most of the heat.
Put the vegetables in a blender, together with a teaspoon of salt. (This is a teaspoon of table salt. If using flaky or coarse salt, you may have to use more.)
Blend until smooth.
Add the cumin and cilantro, and blend to incorporate.
If you are unsure about the level of heat, you can follow Baby Lady’s advice and add the green chiles one at a time until your desired level of heat has been reached.
The salsa verde is now ready to be used. Recipes to follow soon!
Spain is famous for its tapas, and one of the most common types of tapas is croquetas. In this case, mushroom croquettes.