I realized about two and a half days into my beach vacation last week that I hadn’t been in the ocean yet. I arrived on Wednesday morning. It was Friday afternoon at this point. There I was, sitting on the beach – working – when this thought popped into my head like one would remember to buy milk at the grocery store. Consider this – I have spent the last nine (or 28) years complaining about my inept geographical proximity to an ocean for various reasons – school, job, etc. But so much do I crave being by the ocean, breathing salt air and feeling the sand underneath my toes, that I have often pulled over on way to meetings and on road trips to go for a swim. When I find myself near the water I bound into, not up to my knees or waist but all the way in, often taking long swims or treading water for 45 minutes at a time. I love the ocean. I always have.
Some things happened I didn’t really plan on. For instance, I did not plan on having to write my whole beach vacation, furiously trying to make a deadline. I did not plan on having to take over my brother’s kitchen (thankfully, with his and his GF’s permission). And, as if almost by fate, I did not plan on coming back to Phoenix after the week was done. I planned on being here, as you know. But things happen that sometimes you can’t expect and everything happens for a reason. Because I am not here, I was able to come back to Phoenix, interview Chef A and B of two of my favorite restaurants, research and write my ass off for a project I hope to be able to share with you very soon, and spend a few more days with my familia in Arizona.
One of the things I have been wanting to do for a very long time is bend my Tata’s ear from his famous salsa recipe. This is not as easy as it sounds as he has some health issues, but I was determined to make it work. This salsa is gold. It is also his signature dish, the one he is known for and everyone in the family wants. So with him dictating actions to his sous chef (me), we sat at his kitchen table happily mixing together liquid gold.
I learned a lot of things about my grandfather that day. For starters, I learned he loves green onions. He especially likes them in eggs. When I told my Nana this, who has been married to him for over 55 years she exclaimed, “He does??”. I guess she is learning too. I also learned that I cut those green onions the wrong way, lopping off too much at the end with the roots, wasting the onion. My Tata lived through the Depression and waste is not acceptable to him. After I had cleared out the cans and tossed them in the trash he picked them out again, scolding me for leaving too much El Pato or green chile in the bottom. (I had to put a little water at the bottom to get every last drop out).
Even with all the scolding, it was an amazing morning with him. At the end of it, we yielded 8 recycled jars full of salsa, waiting to be eaten with chips or slathered over eggs or dolloped onto a steak fresh off a summer grill (this is basically my idea of heaven, actually). I would not have missed this for the world. Enjoy!
Henry’s Hot Salsa
I am looking into a substitute for El Pato sauce, as it’s not available everywhere (like in New York, even in Queens, shockingly). Until then, make an attempt to seek it out, or purchase from Amazon. Trust me, buy a case. It is worth having around. This recipe easily doubles, as we often have to do in our family to avoid fighting over who gets the salsa.
Time: 15 minutes. Makes about 3 12 oz jars.
2 4 oz cans chopped hatch green chiles
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
6 green onions, sliced thinly
1/2 medium onion, diced small
4 7 oz cans yellow El Pato sauce
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
Empty green chile into a large bowl. Add about a tablespoon of water to each can to get out all the remaining bits. Add garlic powder. Put the oregano in your palm, press your other palm over it, rubbing the oregano between your palms (my Nana says this releases the flavor). Add to green chile; mix to combine. Add green and white onion and mix. Add cans of El Pato and cilantro and mix well. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if need be, but it should be perfect! Let sit at least a day to develop flavor. Jar and refrigerate. Will keep up to three weeks.