At a point in each high schooler’s life, they’ll make a visit to the guidance counselor's office. Sitting in a chair across from someone who might view each student as a proration against their salary, they’ll be asked a Very Important Question:
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
There are no wrong answers, just bad expectations. Occasionally, someone is going to say they dream of Harvard or Med School or becoming the next Zuckerburg and the person across from them is going to take a deep breath, hit a beat, and say:
“So, yeaaaaaaahhhhh, probably not.”
Such as it is on what I call “Green Weekend” at Casa de Clementine. It is the weekend when, far past when I’ve given up grabbing tomatoes or eggplants, past the point of weeding, when I’ve turned off the sprinklers at the spigot for the season, I go out into the garden and decide the fate of what’s left over. I collect anything worth collecting and the rest goes to ground leaving behind a big pile of mulchables. It's when all my tomatillos and green tomatoes come in, destined for the yearly batch of green sauce.
We’d arrived at Green Weekend.
I had it set in my mind -- it was sunny. Actually sunny. This had to be a sign, it had been pouring for weeks. I should go out, I should take out all the squash and zucchini and vining plants that weren't fruiting and get the beds ready for garlic and leeks and winter plants, all waiting to go in.
And it started well. Out came any vine that didn't have a pumpkin or melon or squash attached to it. The soybeans, the chard, the basil -- the dropouts, what have you. But the edge cases played to my sympathetic nerve for the underdog -- the kids you just knew were special snowflakes yet to shine. The vines with great blossoms on them, blossoms worth eating once filled with ricotta and maybe some crab. The snap peas still bearing some fresh pods. The pepper plants with tiny hopeful bells hanging from them, sucking in their gut trying not to let on at how cold they are.
I pulled tomatillos worth pulling, pounds and pounds and pounds of them, and then green tomatoes. But for each one I pulled was one I left, not ready but too full of promise to tell they might start thinking about trade school. If I’d been looking for my copy of "Lean In," I might have found it in the tomato patch, where more variegated green tomatoes hung than I’d picked in total this summer. And even worse, I found myself weeding as I went, giving these special snowflakes a chin up -- a little more opportunity to reach the sun.
the initial tomatillo haul
I’m headed out of town for a few weeks, so I’m letting these babies hack it out on their own and I’ll check back in after next semester. Because even though there are some promising freshmen looking to fill their slots, I have faith there are a few high achievers still in there.
Amanda's Green Sauce
Tomatillos are in abundance right now, so the key is to hit your farmers market and see who has them at the best price. You're going to want 3 parts tomatillos, 2 parts green tomatoes, 2 parts green peppers, and 1 part onion. Wash everything and then slice all the tomatillos and tomatoes in half.
Place them in a baking dish with sides on it (a cookie sheet is fine, but make sure it has a decent lip on it). Sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper and brown sugar.
Bake at 350 until they're just goo.
Pour off into a bowl. Continue until you've disposed of all tomatillos and tomatoes.
Slice peppers in half, pull out seeds and plate cut side down. Slice onions into thick slices and lay all out on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and brown sugar and bake until golden, and the peppers should be wrinkly and blistered.
Everything goes into the bowl. Now blend it all together in the processor, and toss in an entire bunch of cilantro -- even the stems, just cut the very end off.
Once blended well, start squeezing in lime juice, tasting as you go. You're looking for a tart, sweet, sour green sauce. It might require more lime juice or salt or even sugar to reach the right balance.
Now, you can freeze the green sauce in bags until you need it. I freeze it in tiny amounts, enough to throw on one piece of chicken or a taco, and in big amounts for, say, green chili. If you're asking me, green chili is the best way for the green sauce to meet its end.
- 1 pork shoulder
- a handful of cumin
- 1 head of garlic
- your choice of hot pepper garlic sauce
- 32 oz green sauce
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 bottle of crap beer
- sour cream
- shredded cheese
- white rice
Cube the pork shoulder, dice the garlic and then toss both with the cumin and a decent coating of the pepper sauce. In a large, heavy bottomed pot on medium high, cook off the pork and diced garlic. It's really just a medium high heat, and every few minutes you're going to stir the pork so it all gets browned.
When it all has a nice brown to it, add in the contents of 1 bottle of beer. I think this is the great opportunity to get rid of that shit beer someone left at your house at a party and has been taking up fridge space every since. I'm lookin' at YOU, Dos Equis. Pour that sucker in, and 32 oz of green sauce. Or thereabouts. I add a cup or two of chicken stock. Bring it up to a simmer and then turn down to low, cover and let it cook 2 hours.
Serve it with a dollop of sour cream in the middle and some shredded cheese on top over white rice. Or just by itself. It's pretty fucking fantastic on its own.
Chili is one of those things that people are realllly passionate about. Families pass down recipes. So turn this puppy into a cookbook of xoJane chili recipes -- what's your recipe look like?