Charred Salsa Verde

I don’t know about you, but salsa is like my first love. I could eat it every day of the week. There are so many varieties, heat levels, and flavor combinations the options are unlimited. This charred Salsa Verde is my go-to when I’m craving a Mexican fix. It works with just about anything you can imagine. Tacos, quesadillas, grilled chicken, roasted fish, enchiladas you name it, and this salsa will please the taste buds every time.

The problem with restaurant and store-bought salsa is that they are loaded with garlic and onions and for those who chose not to eat garlic and onions (me), or those who can’t, due to intolerance or other dietary concerns (my partner) this is a magical elixir.

Trust me with the abundance of fresh flavors in this salsa, you’ll never miss what’s missing. You may not eat anything else.

3 poblano peppers

2 dried ancho peppers

1 pound tomatillos*

½ bunch fresh cilantro

1 head romaine lettuce

3 cups chicken stock (use vegetable stock for vegetarians)

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

*A note about tomatillos for those not used to buying them. They are usually near the tomatoes but are in no way like green tomatoes. They come in thin paper husks that should be rather tight around the fruit inside. If the tomatillo is too large it will burst the husk. These tend to be a bit on the tart side, so try to avoid these. I also try to buy 3-4 tomatillos over the 1 pound in this recipe as on occasion you might find one bruised or damaged once the husk is removed.

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Use parchment paper or aluminum foil to line a large, rimmed baking sheet.

Place the 2 dried ancho chiles in boiling water for 5-10 minutes to rehydrate.

Remove the husks under warm running water and quickly rinse the tomatillos. There is a sticky film on the tomatillo from the husk. Cut the tomatillos in half and place them on the baking sheet along with the 3 poblano peppers. Leave them whole for the roasting. Place in preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the peppers and tomatillos you want a nice black char on all the skins (especially the peppers).

While roasting, roughly chop the romaine lettuce, cilantro, and the rehydrated ancho chiles.

Remove the peppers and tomatillos from the oven and place them in a food processor along with all the other ingredients. Pulse several times until you have a very chunky mixture.

Pour the contents of the food processor into a large skillet. Bring to a very quick boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the broth is reduced by about 1/3. Doesn’t have to be exact. As it’s simmering add some salt and pepper to your taste. White pepper will bring out a bit more heat than standard black pepper.

Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, then return everything to the food processor and blend until a fine salsa. Or to your desired consistency. Pour into a serving bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Crazy Mama and Fun Facts

Even though National Squirrel Day isn’t until January 21st (please mark your calendars now), I thought I’d introduce everyone to one of my buddies, Crazy Mama. She and I met about two years ago. She was extremely timid at first. She would sit on one of the large branches high in the Live Oak and watch other squirrels come and have breakfast with me. She never seemed to like being around others. She’s a loner, or so I thought. It turns out she’s quite the lady’s man. I can’t begin to count the number of times she’s been pregnant.

Over the years, she’s become, my buddy. As she’s gotten older (haven’t we all), and the more times she has her litter of pups, she’s became less of an introvert and more of an extrovert. There are times I’m outside working in the yard, and she’ll follow me up in the trees and bark at me if she thinks I’m ignoring her. When she sees me outside, she’ll run down the tree, run up to me and run circles around my feet until I feed her. She never comes down with the morning crew (now around 11) but instead finds times to enjoy her nuts when she can be alone. I never know what to expect from her. I know the glowing eyes make her look demonic, and perhaps there is a sparkle of evil in her, but that could be why we’ve bonded.

From Merriam-Webster:

Squirrels have had their English name since the 14th century. However, it’s Greek in origin. It comes from skiouros, from skia, meaning “shadow,” and oura, meaning “tail.”

Fun Facts:

These tidbits of squirrel facts came from the National Wildlife Federation’s website last year during National Squirrel Day. (Clears throat, January 21st).

  1. Squirrels can find buried nuts beneath a foot of snow.
  2. A squirrel’s front teeth never stop growing.
  3. Squirrels can lose up to 25% of their nuts to thieves.
  4. Squirrels don’t dig up all of the buried nuts, which results in more trees. (So, we can consider them environmentalists).
  5. Newborn squirrels are about one inch long.

Nana by Mark Towse

Nana, as most people know, is the endearing term used for their sweet, loving grandmother. Mark Towse says it’s derived from the Italian word for grandma, Nonna. Whatever the origins, Mark Towse has a wonderfully twisted, unsettling, and at times humorous story to tell.

Olly must stay with his Nana while his parents work out some marital issues. Nana says she has a lot of surprises waiting for her grandson. One would expect from your grandmother, home cooking, television, or even letting you be alone while she knits. Not Olly’s Nana. Olly is about to face some extraordinary things. I’m not talking magical creatures and fantastical worlds. I’m taking things a young boy (or even an adult) should never witness.

Not sure how anyone could write something so bizarre and mind-boggling terrifying, but Mark Towse has done just that. Nana doesn’t fit into any box. There’s not a box big enough to contain it. From gruesome scenes too deliciously unique to describe in this review (no spoilers) to sexual pleasures of all kinds. There is something wrong at Newhaven Crescent Community Center, and it’s not just Nana.

This book is truly one of the most insane rides I’ve been on in quite a while. If it wasn’t for the humor dotted throughout the book, I’m not sure I would have come out of the story quite the same person. I felt exhausted and a bit dirty when I finished the book. Not an easy accomplishment, Mr. Towse, from one horror author to another – well, done.

It’s a great read, but be warned – you’ve never met a Nana like this one.

Available at Amazon. Amazon affiliate link

Old Dog – New Tricks

The last couple of weeks has been an interesting one as far as my writing goes. About six years ago I wrote a novella. I loved the story and had a blast with the characters. The protagonist was especially wicked. A ninety-something-year-old woman, who on the outside seemed like anyone’s grandmother. On the inside, she was twisted, brutal, and unapologetic. Despite all this, there was something simple and satisfying about her.

Six years later, I’m revisiting the novella and realized there was more to her than I thought early on. She was missing a husband. I won’t go into any details as I hate spoilers. Let’s say that it’s been an interesting learning curve. I’ve never added a character into a long-established story. And worse yet ensuring that the readers won’t know. Of course, anyone reading this will be in the know. (Clearing throat) Please, buy the novella when it comes out, please. And don’t forget a review. They are vital to authors.

The process at first seemed daunting. How does one add a character after the fact? It was something I never encountered before. I spent days of negotiations with myself and my characters. I decided to divide and conquer. I began re-reading the novella. I used the comments function to note where the husband needed to appear. From those insertion points, I was able to revisit actions, conversations, and scenes. The husband’s presence glides onto the page with little effort.

It’s been a long process, and at times it seemed impossible to pull off. I’m not quite there yet, but what I’ve managed so far, reads well. I’m always amazed at the writing process. After over two decades, I’m still learning new tricks and new things. Writing is an always-evolving process of discovery. It’s one of the things I love about the process.

If this all works out, as I hope it does, then I’ve answered the age-old question. Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Thanks for visiting. Be well and stay safe. Until next time.