Chilaquiles Verdes for the Working Girl

I am pulling some very long days as I settle into my new role. While I no longer feel clueless, each day brings unanticipated challenges. There’s an irony in spending nearly all of my waking hours (and, to be honest, most of my dream life as well) thinking about how to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to fresh, local food when I can barely find the time to feed myself.

I made it home at 9:00 tonight determined to make use of the last of the remaining Katchkie Farm tomatillos gifted to me at a work event a couple of weeks ago. Several had already gone into Wajeedah’s Black Bean Bean & Corn Salsa Verde. Even past their prime, as they were tonight, these were some delightful fruits.

Chilaquiles Verdes for the Working Girl

  1. Bring a cast iron skillet up to medium-low heat with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.
  2. Remove the husks from five or so tomatillos and give them a quick rinse. Chop roughly and toss into the food processor.
  3. Add a clove of garlic and some roughly chopped hot peppers. Peppers vary in their heat and we each have our own threshold, so you’ll have to use your own judgment here. Having tasted the tip of a jalapeño and found it to be mild, I added the whole thing and also an inch or so of what I think was a serrano. The resulting dish was very spicy.
  4. Add some salt, pepper and, if you happen to have it (which I did not) cilantro. Run the food processor for a few minutes, pour the resulting salsa verde into a small pan, bring to a boil and lower the heat so that you’ve got a nice slow boil. (You’re aiming to thicken things up a bit.)
  5. Meanwhile, pan fry a few corn tortillas in your skillet, allowing them to get dark in spots and lightly salting them as they come off of the heat. Stack these and slice them into quarters or eighths. 
  6. Stir your quickie tortilla chips with the hot salsa verde and pour into a low bowl. Garnish with queso fresco (or feta if that’s what you have on had), sliced avocado, roast chicken (I wish), and/or whatever your little heart desires that doesn’t further delay mealtime. A fried egg would be nice.

Chilaquiles Verdes

This is not a purist rendition of chilaquiles verdes, but it gets the job done in about 15 minutes, leaving you with time to give the cat some much-needed love before collapsing into bed.

Wajeedah’s Black Bean & Corn Salsa Verde

Friday morning found me trekking to South Jamaica, Queens to meet Wajeedah Anderson-Beyah at McKinley Children’s Garden. The garden is named for Wajeedah’s late husband, an urban farmer and community activist who grew up in nearby public housing and attended P.S. 40 just across the street. McKinley envisioned a space where neighborhood kids could learn about gardening and connect to nature.

I am here to attest that McKinley Children’s Garden is also an oasis for overworked grownups. An hour of chatting about the garden’s educational programs, munching cherry tomatoes fresh from the vine, and learning about different techniques for container gardening did wonders for my frazzled mental state. I would have loved to have spent the day.

South Jamaica Sunflowers

Alas, I was due back on the 15th floor of a Midtown high-rise. Before my departure, Wajeedah tasked me with picking black beans while she gathered sunflowers and lemon balm for me to take home. While I am a serious lover of all manners of beans, it turns out that I didn’t have a clue about how they are grown. These particular beans grow in long thin pods that fade from a lovely eggplant color to white as they dry. Once dry, the pods are easily plucked from the vine.

Black Beans in Pod

And, as I learned later that night, the small, inky beans are easy to pop out of their shell–even after several glasses of wine followed by a long and sleepy subway ride.

Friday at last.

 Wajeedah’s Black Bean & Corn Salsa Verde

Turn the oven up as high as it will go and get to work on the beans.

  • 1/4 cup dried black beans
  • 1 tablespoon bacon grease (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1″ piece of jalapeno or other hot pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 large pinch salt

Add ingredients above plus 3/4 cup water to a small pot, bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Let simmer for one hour or until beans are tender but still toothsome, adding small amounts of water as needed.

  • 6 tomatillos, halved
  • 1 large onion, trimmed and halved
  • 5 mild peppers (bell, Poblano, etc.), seeded and halved
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and halved
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Drizzle one tablespoon olive oil into a roasting pan, arrange the vegetables cut side down in a single layer, drizzle with the remaining oil, and pop into your pre-heated oven. Cook undisturbed until you have some nice charred bits, by which time your tomatillos will likely have collapsed into a mush. Finely mince the jalapeno, roughly chop everything else, and add the vegetables plus any remaining juice to a mixing bowl.

  • 2 cobs of corn, niblets sliced off and cobs reserved for stock
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, finely minced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper

Stir in the remaining ingredients, including a generous amount of pepper and salt to taste. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour. (Overnight is fine.)

Black Bean and Corn Salsa Verde

Serve this as you would any salsa–as a dip with tortilla chips, as a condiment with grilled fish or meat, etc. I ate some with scrambled eggs nestled inside corn tortillas.

Breakfast Tacos