Of Skeletons and Salsa

The Day of the Dead or Día de Los Muertos is celebrated in many countries throughout the world but where I live, we tend to think of it as a Mexican holiday. Indeed, it is.  Celebrated on November 1st, in Mexico it is treated as a national holiday and as the name implies, it is a day for families to honor those loved ones who have passed before them.

One of the things I enjoy most about Día de Los Muertos is the colorful Mexican folk art that accompanies it. These portraits or shadow boxes and figurines are often brightly decorated skeletons. Some of these skeletons are referred to as Catrina, the skeleton of a high society woman in festive apparel and flowers.

The traditions associated with this holiday focus on the preparation of the foods and beverages that were the favorites of those who have died. Some of these are carried to the grave sites and some are set up as altars to facilitate prayers for the dead. Sugar skulls decorated with icing and marigold flowers are common elements of the altars.

Our CSA delivery lines up nicely against this festival. Green orbs covered with papery husks called tomatillos and a variety of peppers are in season. The easiest thing to do is to whip up a spicy Mexican salsa not only because it may have been someone’s favorite but also because it is so versatile; with chips as a dip, over eggs for a ranchero dish, as a sauce on fish or potatoes. The great thing is that the versatility hides a multitude of sins and you are free to “wing it” unless you are truly honoring the recipe of a loved one.

This recipe, passed to me by the living is easy and readily adaptable to tastes.

Tomatillo Salsa
Ingredients:

  • 20 tomatillos, husks removed
  • 4 – 5 serrano chiles
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • cilantro to taste
  • salt

Put the tomatillos and the chiles in a cast iron skillet and toast the skin. Add garlic cloves to heat for a second. Place these items into your blender with as much cilantro as you like and salt. Spin it and enjoy!

Previous Post
Leave a comment

59 Comments

  1. Supremo amigo! Loving this. In India we have a similar palette. We make a salsa or as we call it “chutney” with mint, coriander, tomato, garlic, green peppers, green chilies and salt. Looks very similar to this! 🙂

    Reply
    • Sounds perfect and you know what amiga? You are my 10,000th comment! Tres cool. How shall we celebrate?

      Reply
  2. Interesting!

    Reply
  3. Nice recipe, and a lovely post. I wasn’t aware of the tradition of preparing dishes the honored deceased liked, but I think it’s a wonderful idea, and a tradition I think I’ll start in my family, Thank you!

    Reply
  4. Your salsa looks great!

    Reply
  5. Oh, you make it look so easy. Next summer when I get tomatillos in my farm share I will pop them in the skillet first. Thanks!

    Reply
  6. Thank you for honoring this tradition and cultural heritage. Renee

    Reply
  7. I love tomatillo salsa. I’ve only made it once, but followed a different method. This gives me something new to try. Thanks!

    Reply
    • I really enjoy the smokiness of the roasting. It adds those delicate black flecks that deepen the flavor.

      Reply
  8. This is a great time of year to visit cemeteries; there are sometimes surprising things left on gravestones – gifts to the dead, and indications that the living visited and enjoyed some time remembering their deceased friends and relatives.

    Nice to see tomatillos celebrated – they’re one of those under-appreciated great plants that grow in our Sonoran soil and climate with little attention.

    Reply
    • They grew in the field that we passed through on our way home from school when I was young. I just didn’t know what they were.

      Reply
  9. yum what an awesome alternative to tomato salsa¬

    Reply
  10. Now I’m craving tomatillo salsa.

    Reply
    • It is just the best. This one turned out rather spicy so one of my kids wouldn’t eat it but I just love it.

      Reply
  11. katebart

     /  November 1, 2012

    Thank you for reminding me about this important day! As a young Catholic school girl, I always looked forward to All Saints Day, mostly because I had the day off after Halloween! Considered a Holy Day of Obligation, it was just as sacred as Sunday, and we attended Mass to celebrate deceased family and friends whose names were written in a book that was laid on the alter. I so appreciate how you value heritage, traditions and culture as important tenants of humanity. And I always love your recipes! Green salsa is my favorite, and it’s about time I learn how to make it!. Mille grazie!

    Reply
    • I think we need to do some serious seeking out of the holiday in our area. This green salsa is very good and very simple.

      Reply
  12. I’m having avocado for dinner. It’s coincidental, but now I’ll feel like I’m celebrating a holiday.

    Reply
  13. I’ve heard of tomatillos but not seen them. I’m quite sure we can’t buy them here. I would love to try this salsa. I’ll see if I can source some tomatillos xx

    Reply
    • If you enjoy salsa, it would be worth a market trip. They grow in hot dry areas so not sure of your exact climate. What is local for you?

      Reply
  14. Village of the Arts, the Gulf Coast’s largest Art Community, celebrates the 7th Annual Dia de los Muertos this weekend ~ the Festival of the Skeletons. There will be: Mexican Music & Food, a Village Community Shrine, a Memory Wall for Loved ones, and shrines and altars at the galleries throughout the village.

    The weather sounds perfect for communing with the departed souls of loved ones. Hope the have tomatillo salsa that looks as good as yours!

    Reply
  15. Thanks for the recipe! I was eyeing some gorgeous tomatillos at the farmers market on Saturday, but didn’t buy them since I wasn’t sure what to do with them. I’ll have to pick up some this weekend!

    Reply
    • Hmm, I’m a little bit surprised that they grow where you live but that’s great! They were one of the “growing wild in the fields” items when I was young and walked to school.

      Reply
      • Yeah, they do well here. The lower parts of VA have pretty long growing seasons. One farmer successfully grew and harvested some pepper seeds one of her customers brought back from Jamaica!

        Reply
  16. I remember that holiday well from the time I lived in Phoenix where it is widely celebrated. Interesting tradition and fascinating art to accompany it. The salsa looks great!

    Reply
  17. Great post, Tammy. Day of the Dead is definitely not only a Mexican holiday, but always gets associated with that alone. We just celebrated it yesterday with flowers and candles brought to the cemetery.

    Oh, and the salsa looks amazing!

    Reply
  18. Excellent read, dear Tammy! I never tasted tomatillo’s before. I am on the look-out for them now! A tasty recipe! 🙂

    Reply
    • I wonder if you will be able to find them. I used google translate and it says that they are called tomatillos in French also.

      Reply
  19. what a beautiful day to remember death, a festival.

    Reply
    • It is beautiful, isn’t it? It’s not only festive and colorful but calls on us to remember specific people and what they loved.

      Reply
  20. I need to bookmark this recipe. We don’t get tomatillos in the CSA but markets get them.

    Hummus and salsas are becoming our noshes of choice. This one looks awesome.

    Reply
  21. I love the idea of remembering a loved one by preparing their favorite foods. I do a bit of that here, tending my aunt Eileen’s peonies and making sure her holiday dishes are made… she had a few classics that always make me think of her.

    I prefer to think of those who have passed as they were when they were living, rather than at their grave which I have no connection with.

    Reply
  22. Lisa H

     /  November 6, 2012

    The salsa was delicious! Thanks!

    Reply
  23. I like the idea of making a loved one’s favorite foods to in his or her honor.

    Reply
  24. Melissa

     /  November 7, 2012

    I love that every time I read your blog, I learn something new – plus get great recipe ideas! Thank you!

    Reply
    • Thanks Melissa. I would love it if you’d enter your blog url on your comments – I can never get back to you. I try to provide a learning opportunity at every post.

      Reply
  25. I love salsa verde. This looks wonderfully yummy. 🙂

    Reply
  26. Thanks for the shout out Nancy!

    Reply
  27. Thank you for the shout-out Ollin!

    Reply
  1. Night of the Day of the Dead « Spirit Lights The Way
  2. Words On My Radar (Issue 9) « Courage 2 Create

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: