Even though Richland, the Southeastern Washington town where I grew up, was first established in the early 40’s, it wasn’t all that small by the time I came in to the picture, about 30 years later. We had two high schools and a few restaurants designated as “hang outs”, such as the Spud Nut Shop (amazing donuts made from potato flour), Zips (burger joint) and Tastee Freeze (ice cream stand).
The restaurants in Richland didn’t have a lot of diversity. That was one thing I found very exciting when I moved to Seattle, as an adult, and got to experience the tastes of India, Thailand, Vietnam, Puerto Rico and Russia. Richland had one “Oriental” restaurant and a ton of Mexican restaurants. That region of the state has a huge Latino population, for various reasons, but mostly because their parents and grandparents moved here as migrant farm workers and then settled in to raise their families. Most of the established Mexican restaurants originally opened to serve that section of the community, but we lucked out that a place so far north of the border had such good, authentic Mexican restaurants and food.
My family loved Mexican food so much that my mother often made it for us at home. She had a great recipe for salsa. I can remember the three of us sitting in the living room, each with our own bowl, sitting around a bag of chips, and calling it dinner. The simple flavors of salt, chiles, tomatoes and onions would awaken the taste buds served on a crispy bite of tortilla chip. It was so good, my mom will now admit to occasionally adding just a little too much Tabasco, just so my dad and I wouldn’t eat it!
When I asked her for the recipe, I surprised to see that not all the ingredients were fresh, including a big can of diced tomatoes and a can of green chile salsa. So, I searched for fresh equivalent of the ingredients in the can, which was Ortega brand green chili salsa. Sadly, Ortega no longer makes that food anymore. So, I went to the grocery store and perused the Mexican foods aisle and found a small can of Herdez (made in Mexico) brand salsa verde. It only had 5 ingredients and no preservatives. When I used that in her salsa recipe, it tasted a lot like the original.
I found a recipe online that most closely resembles the ingredients in the canned salsa, at Big Oven. I changed it slightly, cutting out the garlic and halving the recipe to end up with just about the right amount needed for Mom’s salsa recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Mom’s salsa - revised
• 1.5 c Water
• 1 ¼ tsp Salt
• 2 Fresh serrano chile peppers
• ½ lb Tomatillos; husks removed
• 1/4 c Fresh cilantro; (fresh
• 2 tbsp Onion; finely chopped
• 1 lb. and 12 oz Diced tomatoes, drained
• 7 oz. can Green chiles (mild to med.)
• 6 Green onions, sliced thin (include greens)
• 1 Lime, sliced into wedges (optional)
In a saucepan over high heat, combine the water and half the salt and bring to a boil. Add the garlic, chiles and tomatillos and cook, uncovered, until soft, 8-10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the liquid. When cool enough to handle, stem the chiles and tomatillos. In a blender or in a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the chiles, tomatillos, reserved liquid, cilantro and remaining salt. Process to form a smooth puree. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in the chopped onion. Let the salsa cool to room temperature (End Big Oven recipe). Then add diced tomatoes, green chiles and green onions. Mix and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Serve chilled with optional lime wedges (my additions).