Growing up in Alaska, my first introduction to Mexican food was the classic American version of the taco. You know the one, the hard shells that come from a yellow box, the packet of taco seasoning (yes, in a yellow bag) that you mix in with your ground beef, some lettuce, cheese, tomato and salsa from a jar. Good to go…or so I thought. This was how I remembered Mexican food. Fast forward twenty years, and I now live in San Diego, and boy did we have it all wrong in Alaska! Short of crossing the border, I’m not sure where you will find better Mexican cuisine here in the states. But even as I have become accustomed to great Mexican food, I’ll admit I sometimes make tacos the old fashioned way just like when I was a kid.
Having lived in San Diego most of my adult life, you begin to begin to recognize the significance of salsa in Mexican dishes and the traditional Mexican home. In fact most meals are served with Salsa and peppers, from breakfast to dinner. Most Mexican restaurants will have dishes of freshly prepared salsa on the table when you arrive. Great for dipping tortilla chips and spreading on your meal. The two most common salsas you will encounter are salsa roja (a tomato based salsa) and salsa verde.
Salsa Verde is green in color and is made from tomatillos and green chilis. Tomatillos are very similar to tomatoes and are related to the tomato family. They are green in color but when purchased or picked will have a yellowish husk on them not much different than the first few outer layers of an onion. This husk can be easily removed by soaking them in hot tap water for about 3 minutes. The husk then should be easily removed.
Making fresh salsa is imperative to good Mexican food. I would only resort to store bought salsa from a jar if it was my only option. Salsa is really pretty easy to make. So even on those occasions when I whip up some old fashioned tacos, mom style, I always choose to use fresh salsa. So, if tacos in a shell are all that’s in your repertoire of Mexican recipes, be sure to whip up some fresh salsa too, you will taste the difference.