By Robbie Johnson
Going Native T
he unmistakable mark of a well-traveled sailor is the incorporation of spices, veggies and fruits into the galley from places visited and people met in the course of foreign travels. I first encountered tomatillos over 35 years ago in a small village market in Central America. Tomatillos (tohmah-TEE-ohs) are little green tomatoes sheathed in a parchment-like covering. The parchment is peeled off, or roasted off before use. There is hardly a restaurant in Mexico, Central or South America that doesn’t have a bottle or dish of salsa verde, green sauce, on the table whose central ingredient is the tomatillo. Tomatillos are so uniquely delicious that today they are fast becoming common fare in supermarkets throughout the United States. I appreciate the quality of versatility in anything, and tomatillos are the epitome of versatility; they can be stored in a sailboat’s cooler or refrigerator for up to a month. This salsa can be a spicy dip for a tortillachips-and-cold-beer cockpit gathering, or smeared atop a freshly grilled mahimahi, or one of my favorites: atop thinly-sliced slivers of pork snuggled in sealed aluminum foil over a hot grill. Here is an authentic, easy-to-prepare recipe for your own galley’s version of salsa verde: Salsa Verde 1 lb. tomatillos, husked and rinsed 3 to 4 serrano chiles, chopped finely 1 jalapeno, chopped finely 2 cloves garlic, chopped finely 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro Juice of 2 limes 1/4 teaspoon salt Preparation You have a choice in the cooking of the tomatillos: you may simply boil them in salted water until done, or place the tomatillos and serrano peppers on a piece of aluminum foil beneath a broiler flame and roast them until their surface blisters, then peel off any blackened spots. Now, seed and devein the chiles, and add the garlic. To spare the time involved in all the chopping, I usually whip out my immersion blender and process all the ingredients in a small bowl, including the lime juice and salt, but excepting the cilantro leaves, until it is a slightly chunky purée. I finish by stirring in the chopped cilantro leaves, mixing well, and then set the bowl in a cooler to chill. This recipe makes about 2 cups
of authentic salsa verde. Going native with your galley might also call for incorporating chayote into some new recipes. Chayote is a member of the squash family and has a very interesting history. It was grown by the Aztecs and “discovered” by Spanish conquistadores, who took samples back to the Old World. Over the centuries, chayote migrated to places as distant as China and Australia, where its mild cucumber-like taste and culinary versatility earned it a place in hundreds of culturally-diverse recipes. It can be thinly sliced and eaten raw in fresh salads, or cut into chunks and deep-fried like potatoes, or added to soups and stews just like any other squash. The following time-tested recipe using chayote in combination with sweet bell peppers, onions and chile peppers makes an excellent and versatile side dish when served hot to accompany grilled fish or chicken, or if served at room temperature, great for a cold meat antipasto platter. Chayote w/Red Peppers & Onions 3 medium-sized chayote, peeled and sliced thinly 2 red sweet (bell) peppers, seeded and sliced thinly 1 small chile pepper (serrano or jalapeno), seeded and minced 2 medium-sized yellow (Spanish) onions, sliced thinly 2 cloves garlic, chopped finely 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 cup chicken stock (bouillon cubes okay) 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped 3 tablespoons virgin olive oil Salt and pepper to taste Preparation Heat skillet over medium heat, add oil and onions, sweet peppers and chile peppers, cooking for about 10-minutes until soft. Lower heat, then stir in chayote slices, garlic and oregano, cooking for about 3-4 minutes, or until chayote begins to turn translucent. Now, stir in chicken stock and salt and pepper. Simmer mixture over low heat for another 15-20 minutes, or until chayote is tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Serve with parsley garnish.
Robbie Johnson lives aboard a steel Tahiti Ketch and is the author of Gourmet Underway – A Sailor’s Cookbook. Order his book at www.gourmetunderway.com.
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