Salsas and Sauces — By Ben on 29 March 2011
Xoconostle and Tomatillo Salsa

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Yesterday I wrote about the trips to Condesa tianguis and Xochimilco market with JJ Goode and his friend Matt. After our trip to the tianguis we went back to Ruth’s house for a cooking class. Ruth had most of the ingredients ready and after giving us our copies of the recipes the class started.We (actually Ruth and señora Carmen, Ruth’s maid, did most of the work) made the following dishes:

  • Xoconostle and tomatillo sauce
  • Mexican rice
  • Red pipian
  • Green mole de Puebla

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I will share all those recipes here. But I want to start with the sauce because it was something completely new for me. Xoconostle is the fruit of a cactus similar to the prickly pear. Even though tunas (pricly pear) and xoconostles look similar, they taste differently. Tunas are sweet and xoconostles are sour. Tunas are eaten as dessert or snacks and xoconostles are mainly used for salsas, though they can also be found in the form of candy and even syrup.

Another new ingredient for me were the yellow tomatillos. Ruth bought them at Xochimilco market for the first time and we were surprised how sweet they were. Tomatillos are usually tart, but this yellow kind was sweet and delicious so Ruth decided that they would make a delicious salsa. What you see in the picture are all the ingredients for the salsa (yellow tomatillos, xoconostles, jalapeño peppers, onion and one or two garlic cloves), plus some salt. The first step is to roast them. We did on a clay comal.

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After that, scoop the juicy flesh out of the xoconostles and put all the ingredients in a molcajete (mortar and pestle). Then grind them to make the sauce. Add salt to taste.

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And that’s it, you have a delicious sweet, sour and spicy sauce to use on your tacos, quesadillas, tlacoyos, sopes or any other dish you wish. Like I said above, I’ll be sharing with you the recipes for the moles we prepared that day. But cooking and eating is not all we did that day. We also had a tequila tasting courtesy of Casa Dragones. Sandra Chollet is the representative in the US for this brand and she was invited by Ruth to give us a little taste of what they are making.

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Casa Dragones is an expensive tequila, about $275 USD per bottle. But it is the best tequila I’ve tasted in my life (and I’ve had a lot of tequila in my life). Casa Dragones only makes one kind of tequila, Joven. There are 5 different kinds: Blanco, Joven, Reposado, Añejo and Extra Añejo. Although most brands that sell high end tequila concentrate on añejos and extra añejos, Casa Dragones concentrates on making a great quality artisan Joven tequila. Sandra explained to us that most cheap tequilas are not 100% agave. The yearly production is more than 225 million liters and it’s impossible to cultivate enough agave for those numbers.

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Tasting this tequila was such a great experience. I got schooled on sipping tequila, starting with the special glasses made for this purpose. I also learned how to recognize a good quality tequila by its color, transparency, thickness, aroma (interestingly, those glasses allow you to perceive three different features of the tequila depending where you place your nose) and of course taste. If you can get your hands on a bottle of this tequila I encourage you to try it. You won’t regret it! Find a retailer here.

¡Buen provecho!


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About Author

grew up around food. His family owned a restaurant in Mexico City and he spent a big deal of his childhood helping and learning after school the art of creating delicious dishes from simple ingredients. He created this blog to share his kitchen adventures with the world.

(18) Readers Comments

  1. My husband is such a tequila fan I'll have to have him read this.

  2. That was fascinating, thanks! I don't know if I'll ever see xoconostle or yellow tomatillos here in Houston, but if I do, now I'll know what they are.

  3. I've been attempting to broaden my cooking horizons through more international dishes. This website is fantastic and the salsa looks absolutely divine. Great blog and post!!

    Take care,
    – Chelsey

  4. I've been attempting to broaden my cooking horizons through more international dishes. This website is fantastic and the salsa looks absolutely divine. Great blog and post!!

  5. I haven't seen Xoconostle around here in San Francisco. I need to make a trip to the Mission district asap to try this out :)

    Cheers,
    Heguiberto

    • Thanks for the recipe. my mom is from DF and my grandfather spoke Nahuatl and she had never heard of xoconostle. The salsa was great! If you are down in Ensenada you would enjoy El Taco de Huitzilacochitle (pre colonial mexican food and homemade pulque!)

  6. Pingback: Food in Toronto

  7. were can I find xoconostles in socal?

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