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Chefs’ Corner: Johnny Hernandez’s Ceviche Verde


Ceviche Verde

In the newly redesigned Bon Appétit magazine, the August Challenge for four chefs was to come up with a dish using avocado. One of those chefs was San Antonio’s Johnny Hernandez of La Gloria.

His recipe was for a sensational Ceviche Verde, which calls for tomatillo, green olives, cilantro and jalapeño in addition to avocado.

The other recipes are from Carly Groden of Proof in Des Moines, who offered an avocado smoothie, Greg Baker of the Refinery in Tampa with Avocado Salad with Peaches and Shaun McCrain of Book Bindery in Seattle with Avocado and Crab Soup.

By the way, Hernandez was also honored recently by the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as Business Owner of the Year.

Congratulations to him for both honors.

Ceviche Verde

1 pound fresh Pacific halibut or other firm-fleshed fish, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more, to taste
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
3/4 cup sliced green olives
1/2 cup diced tomatillo
1/4 cup very finely chopped onion
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and minced (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Tostadas or tortilla chips, for serving

Place the fish in a medium bowl. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Toss to coat. Add lime juice and toss to coat. Marinate until the edges of the cubs begin to turn opaque, about 30 minutes. Add avocado, olives, tomatillo, onion, cilantro, and jalapeño, if using. Add olive oil and season with salt, to taste. Serve over tostadas or with tortilla chips for dipping.

Makes 4 servings.

From Johnny Hernandez, La Gloria/Bon Appétit

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Pepita-roasted Tomatillo Dip


Pepitas, or roasted pumpkin seeds.

San Antonio loves a good tomatillo dip, and this version benefits from the addition of garlic, tangy lemon juice, the nuttiness of roasted pumpkin seeds, and the freshness of cilantro leaves mixed with the tart tomatillos.

It’s a  perfect treat, whether you’re looking for something to snack on while cheering on the U.S. Women’s National Team as they play in the World Cup finals or just munch on any mid-afternoon.

“For a special presentation, try serving this smooth, rich-tasting dip in a hollowed-out squash,” say the editors of the new “The Sunset Cookbook” (Oxmoor House, $34.95).

Pepita-roasted Tomatillo Dip

3 fresh tomatillos (about 6 ounces), husks removed
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds or pepitas
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Tortilla chips

Put tomatillos in a small baking pan and broil 4 to 6 inches from heat, turning once, until skins are lightly charred, 5 to 8 minutes.

In a small, heavy skillet over medium heat, toaste pumpkin seeds until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes.

In a blender, whirl tomatillos, pumpkin seeds, garlic, lemon juice, oil, cilantro and salt until combined but still slightly chunky. Scrape into a small bowl; add more salt to taste. Serve with chips.

Make up to 1 day ahead, chilled.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

From “The Sunset Cookbook”

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Ask a Foodie: What to Do With Salmon?


Salmon can be prepared in many wonderful ways.

Q. What’s your favorite way to cook salmon?

— Janet U.

A. Salmon can be enjoyed in many different ways, from smoked to cooked on a cedar plank. I generally search out wild-caught salmon when I go to cook it, because the flavor is stronger and brighter than the farm-raised. If that’s too fishy for you, then seek out the farm-raised.

I once tried a recipe of Jamie Oliver’s that had you wrap salmon in slices of prosciutto, before popping them in the oven. Then you topped the fish with lentils before serving. I’ve done several variations on that since, because I’m one of those who rarely makes a recipe twice. It’s the thrill of finding or tasting something new that usually interests me.

That said, here’s the next salmon recipe I’ll be trying. It’s from Rick Bayless’ “Everyday Mexican” (W.W. Norton & Co., $29.95), and it sounds perfect for a summer picnic. The salsa can be used in a variety of dishes or by itself.

Pasta with Roasted Tomatillos and Salmon

Tomatillo Salsa:
4 medium (about 8 ounces) tomatillos, husked, rinsed and halved
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
Hot green chiles, to taste, stemmed and roughly chopped (Bayless likes 2 serranos or 1 jalapeño)
About 1/2 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro
1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
Salt, to taste

12 ounces pasta
2 cups coarsely shredded salmon or cooked chicken (see note)
1 generous cup grated queso añejo or Parmesan, plus more for garnish
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Wedges of lime, for garnish

To make the salsa: Set a large (10-inch) non-stick skillet over medium-high heat (if you don’t have a non-stick skillet, lay in a piece of foil). Lay in the tomatillos, cut side down, and garlic. When the tomatillos are well browned, 3 or 4 minutes, turn everything over and brown the other side. (The tomatillos should be completely soft.)

Scrape the tomatillos and garlic into a blender or food processor. Let cool 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chiles, cilantro and 1/4 cup water. Blend to a coarse purée. Thin with a little additional water if necessary to give the salsa an easily spreadable consistency.

Scoop the chopped onion into a strainer and rinse under cold water. Stir into the salsa. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. Keep warm if using with pasta.

For the pasta dish: Put on a pot of water to boil, then make the salsa, without letting the ingredients cool. Boil pasta (fusilli or shells are good choices) in salted water until al dente.  Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Return the pasta to the pot, and add the salsa, the reserved cooking liquid and 2 cups coarsely shredded salmon or chicken. Sprinkle on a generous cup grated Mexican queso añejo or Parmesan, toss and serve with chopped cilantro, extra cheese and a few edges of lime for each hungry eater to add to his or her liking. Wonderful at room temperature for a picnic.

Note: Bayless likes to use pepper-coated hot-smoked salmon or rotisserie chicken that’s easy to flake.

Makes 2-3 main-course servings or 4-6 side dish servings.

Source: “Mexican Everyday” by Rick Bayless

If you have a question for Ask a Foodie, e-mail info@savorsa.com.

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Daily Dish: David Mendelson Moves to Tomatillos


David Mendelson, a chef who has been on the local scene for years, has recently been named general manager of Tomatillos,3210 Broadway.

He will be in charge of creating and updating menus while developing staff and focusing on service.

“San Antonio’s dining landscape has evolved over the last 15 years with new concepts and new names, but Tomatillos is one of a few restaurants that has remained consistent, been recognized with numerous awards and accolades and has established a loyal following,” Mendelson said.  “I am thrilled to be part of the Tomatillos team and look forward to working with and learning from the staff while infusing new ideas into the already successful style of the restaurant.”

Mendelson has worked at Silo, Morton’s the Steakhouse and Rita’s on the River, among other restaurants. He was also personal chef to former Spurs star David Robinson.

For more on Tomatillos, click here.

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Make a Sizzling Pork Green Chile


You can roast your own, or pick them up already roasted during August chile fests around town.

If ever a dish was green, this is it. Along with pork, green chiles aplenty go into the pot (you almost can’t put too many in). Then you add more green things: tomatillos, cilantro, lime juice.

Texans tend to call it this dish pork green chile stew, and there’s nothing exactly wrong with this. One also might refer to it as a pork and green chile guisada. Guisada means “stew.”

But in states further west, where the dish is insanely popular, it is  generally referred to as  Pork Green Chile, or even just green chile.  I learned to make green chile when I was in college in Arizona and have made it ever since.  One can also make it with beef, a mixture of beef and pork, or venison. I’ve had it all ways.

Fry the cubes of pork, give them plenty of room in the pan so they brown rather than stew.

One good thing about this recipe is that no starch-based thickening agents are required — no flour, no cornstarch, no nuthin’.  How does it get so wondrously thick? By the tried and true method of reduction. The chiles and their juices simmer down to a thick, delicious green sauce. At the same time, the meat is getting fork tender as it imbues the chiles with all that good, porky flavor.

This dish is forgiving.  If you don’t have tomatillos, leave them out. Add a little more lime juice for that little acidic zing. Or, use a can of Herdez Salsa Verde. (I always keep a supply of these in the pantry since it’s a good product and can be used for any number of dishes. ) If you don’t have very many fresh green chiles but you have canned, augment the fresh with the canned. If you don’t like a lot of heat, use more poblanos and Anaheims than jalapeños and serranos. But, keep in mind that Anaheims labeled ‘hot,’ as in hot Hatch chiles, will be just that. And, we’ve all had a few fiery poblanos, too. Play it by taste.

Finally, maybe the best thing about Pork Green Chile: After you’ve done the prep work, the roasting, slicing and dicing, you just cover it up and simmer.  The ingredients plus the heat will make the sauce for you from that point on.  Take the cover off for the last part of the cooking so that it reduces.

Serve the chile in bowls with warm flour tortillas on the side.  Put a bowl of shredded cheese on the side, wedges of lime and some finely chopped onion and cilantro, mixed together.

Another variation I’ve seen is to add this chile to a pot of fideo with a pinch of Mexican oregano in it.  Or, if you have large flour tortillas, make a burrito out of it.

What’s best to drink with it? Cold beer. Period.

Pork Green Chile

4 pounds pork butt or shoulder roast
1/4 cup cooking oil or lard
Salt, to taste
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and diced
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and diced
4-6 tomatillos, husks removed, washed, trimmed and diced
8 Anaheim (long green) chiles, roasted, de-veined and skinned
4 large poblano chiles, roasted, de-veined and skinned
1-2 jalapeños, seeded, diced (or to taste)
1-2 serrano chiles, diced (or to taste)
1 lime
1 -2 tablespoons freshly cut cilantro leaves, minced

Trim the pork, cutting off most of the fat, silver skin and any other gristly parts.  Cut the meat into 1-inch dice. In a large saute or frying pan, pour in the oil and warm it up. Cook the diced pork in batches. This way you can spread the pieces out so they don’t touch one another. This means it will brown rather than stew. Add a little salt to each batch that you fry. After each batch of pork is lightly browned, transfer it to the pot that you are going to simmer the chile in.

When you are browning the last batch, the pan may have become dry, with a lot of golden brown on the bottom.  Before the last batch of meat is completely browned, add the onions, garlic and tomatillo and continue to cook, stirring. The moisture of the vegetables will help loosen up the browned bits. With a wooden stirring spoon, you also can  scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and get all that flavor into your stew.

When the meat and vegetables are browned and in the larger pot, dice all of the trimmed chiles into pieces roughly an inch or two wide, add to the pot. Add the diced jalapeños and serrano chiles. Stir and cover the pot. Bring to a simmer and let it simmer, covered, until the chile has cooked down and the pork is getting tender. If the chiles are very fresh, they’ll put off more liquid. If you want the dish very thick, take the lid off the top of the pot and let it reduce.  When the pork is fork tender, squeeze in the juice from half of the lime and add the cilantro. Stir and taste for seasoning (salt, more lime if you like).

Serves 6-8, depending on appetites.

From Bonnie Walker

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