TSP Original: Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
MUSIC PAIRING: Phish, Live from Hampton Coliseum: August 9, 2004
Salsa makes me think of one person: Brant William Hayes. Doesn’t that name sound like a Civil War general or something?
Brant is one of my closest friends on this planet. I’d be here til kingdom come if I tried to explain how important he is to me and how much we’ve been through together. We’ve been a part of the best and worst times in each other’s lives and we’ve grown closer with every passing month and year. We’ve worked together, played together, traveled together, partied together, cooked together, seen shows together, smoked (way too many) cigarettes together, gotten pulled over together, danced together…we’ve done everything short of live under the same roof together but even that was questionable during a time that I was going through a rough patch and we were so inseparable that we were basically doing just that. I’ve laughed the hardest with Brant and I’ve cried the hardest, too. From breakups to funerals to sharing the news that his son would be born without half of his arm, we have lived the utmost of life together and nobody in the world brings to my life what Brant does. Have I painted a decent picture of what this person means to me?
I met Brant when I was 21. We waited tables together and it took about negative two seconds for us to hit it off. We’ve always had so much fun together but my very favorite memories are our pool days. I’m pretty sure both of us wanted to be servers in a restaurant forever just so we could spend every single summer afternoon at the pool. To this day, I’ve never met anyone who rivaled my devotion to tanning more than Brant. It got so bad that some nights at work, where it was super dark and we dressed in all black, we had to smile just so people could see us. I think Brant’s face was even purple at one point.
Our pool days were often spent drinking from about 10:30am til the sun went down – oh, to be young again – and every now and then, we’d realize we were starving. One afternoon when our stomachs started growling louder than our poolside techno, Brant told me to grab my stuff because we were going to his mom’s. I was all like what for?! thinking we were gonna miss valuable sun time and all Brant said was my mom made salsa.
Brant’s mom makes the most delicious salsa I have ever had which I tasted for the first time that day. We basically stood in her kitchen with the fridge door open eating in silence for about 20 minutes. From that day on, I would get so excited whenever his mom would make a batch because that’s the only way I’d get my hands on it. That’s right, it’s a secret recipe. Gah! WHY! I’ve tried hard to recreate it and I can’t. No amount of begging over the last 14 years has gotten me this recipe either. Trust me, I’ve tried.
So, since I can’t magically make Brant’s mom’s salsa appear in my fridge, I decided to make my own and I’m pretty dang thrilled with the outcome. I think you will be, too. Here’s to a summer full of delicious food and friends like Brant. I hope you all have someone in your life like him.
Why Phish? That’s a loaded question. The long and short is that Phish and Brant go hand in hand for me. I don’t ever really separate the two. Where one is in my thoughts, the other follows close behind. Brant introduced me to Phish and we’ve spent hours upon hours listening to them together. From going to live shows with each other to staying up all night at one of our apartments, we’ve spent a small lifetime listening to them. We were at this Hampton show together in Virginia and out of the endless live shows Phish has put on, this is one of my very favorites. I’ll never forget Brant showing me around Hampton Coliseum – such an interesting, special venue – and taking me back behind where the band plays. I looked out at the crowd and the lights and felt something I never had before and never have since. Only Brant can understand that moment which is why it’s so special. As a bonus to why I pair this salsa with Phish, it had started raining out that day Brant introduced me to his mom’s salsa so instead of going back to the pool, we stayed there and put on Phish for the rest of the day. I’m pretty sure during that afternoon, I experienced what ‘perfect’ means. I love you, Brantleee. I hope you’ll always and forever “come waste your time with me“.
Recipe by: Valerie Albanese
- 6 tomatillos
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1/2 avocado
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1/4 white onion, roughly chopped
- 1 large jalapeno, de-ribbed and de-seeded
- 1/8 cup sour cream
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Few grinds fresh black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place whole tomatillos on the sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking. You're looking for them to be squishy and juicy, not charred, so keep an eye on them as every oven is different; mine took the full 30 minutes.
- Let tomatillos rest and cool slightly after roasting, maybe 15-20 minutes. Once a bit cooled off, add tomatillos and the rest of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning however you'd like. Nobody ever hated a little more sour cream or an extra squeeze of lime juice so adjust how you see fit.
- I ate this on everything for three days straight. No joke.
- This recipe, much like homemade salad dressing, is very forgiving. You can swap out the cilantro for parsley or use yogurt instead of sour cream or even add some chipotle peppers for extra zing!
- The important thing to note is that the avocado and sour cream are both important here to balance the acidity of the tomatillos and to give the salsa body. The fat in both cuts through the acid and you need that or else your mouth will pucker and not in a good sour patch kid kinda way.