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June 2012 COTM, The Homesick Texan: Pickles and Preserves; Salsas, Sauces, and Gravies; Morning Food

Please use this thread to report on the following chapters from the June Cookbook of the Month:

Pickles and Preserves, pages 18 - 36
Salsas, Sauces, and Gravies, pages 42 - 61
Morning Food, pages 66 - 85

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  1. Guacamole, p. 50

    Pretty standard guac. Avocado, garlic, serrano chile, cilantro, lime juice and salt, all mashed up. If you don't know how to scoop out an avocado, here's a tip: stand the avocado on end, and turn it so that it faces you in a way that you have a symmetrical view. Then slice the avocado in half vertically, working around the pit. Take the avocado in your hands and twist it the halves in opposite directions. The avocado should come apart, with the pit stuck in one side. Stab the pit with a knife, blade parallel to the cut side of the avocado. Twist the knife and out pops the pit. Now you can scoop out the avocado with a spoon. If you need diced avocado, do it like a mango, and make cuts in each half in a grid pattern, then turn the avocado inside out and scrape off the flesh, which will come off in cubes (you don't need to do this for this recipe).

    This recipe is pretty much the way I would make it, except I'd probably just use one clove of garlic. The recipe says to "crush" the garlic, then no further instruction. I assume crushed means still mostly whole, but smashed with the flat side of a knife. I did a fine mince instead. A good batch of guac.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MelMM

      Guacamole – p. 50

      Terrific! I made this with reservation since we have our T&T favourite recipe for guacamole. That said, I’m always keen to try something new so I plodded ahead w this. Though I omitted the cilantro (due to an allergy), which would otherwise be a predominant flavour, we still felt this recipe produced a lovely, fresh-tasting guacamole that allowed the richness of the avocado to shine with the Serrano and lime juice providing fresh, bright contrasting flavours. The only other change I made was to incorporate approx 1 tbsp of diced red onion to compensate for the lack of another dominating flavour (cilantro). We really enjoyed this and I’d definitely make it again. The Serrano was wonderful and held greater appeal than the jalapeno that I usually add.

      I really enjoyed reading Mel’s tips and will share one of my own. To preserve the bright green colour of your guacamole, store with the pits of the avocado atop your dip. Not sure why this works but it definitely seems to do so. I learned this from a colleague from Mexico.

    2. Pico de Gallo, p. 54

      Once again, pretty standard recipe, with the exception of the cumin. That got my hackles up. Cumin doesn't belong in pico! I have no idea where she got this from. Anyway, according to the recipe, diced ripe tomatoes, minced garlic, diced onion, cilantro, jalepeños, cumin (?!), lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper are mixed together and that's that. I don't normally put oil in mine, but I did this time, and I never put cumin in mine, but I did this time, just to see if it could possibly add anything. Frankly, I think this author overuses cumin. But truth be told, this made a large enough batch of pico, and the amount of cumin was small enough, that it didn't make much difference at all. Put it in, leave it out, whatever floats your boat. Do use good quality, ripe, fresh tomatoes, or don't bother at all.

      6 Replies
      1. re: MelMM

        I was confused by the cumin in this one as well and funnily enough, it's not included in the version of the recipe she has on her web site: http://homesicktexan.blogspot.ca/2008... .

        1. re: TxnInMtl

          The presence of cumin in these recipes appears to be a thorn in the side our of own homesick Texans. I wonder if she just thinks of it as a signature flavor? And how odd that it crept into the book for this recipe in particular!


        2. re: MelMM

          Pico de Gallo was the first food item I fell in love with when I moved to Texas. I simply could not get enough of it, but was on a student budget so I worked tirelessly to recreate this salsa at home. Oil, black pepper, and cumin are not part of the standard Pico de Gallo salsa. Not in the one I created, and not in the one shown to me by a friend's mother, an amazing Tex-Mex home cook.

          These days I use serranos since jalepenos no longer have any heat and taste like green peppers to me. I generally use a red onion. And after I dice the tomatoes, I put them in a colander with a bit of salt and let them drain. I love the resulting tomato water when the tomatoes are really in season in a glass, straight up.

          Leftover Pico de Gallo tends to get a bit mushy. Try this- a pico de gallo and feta cheese omelette. I always make extra salsa so that we can have this for lunch.

          1. re: smtucker

            Not sure where I got the black pepper in my description above. I must have been flustered from the cumin! Anyway, to set the record straight, the recipe did not call for it, and I did not use it. Nor have I ever, nor would I ever. I agree with you it has no place in pico.

            1. re: MelMM

              I think the cumin has a lot of us quivering! :-)
              And I love cumin.

        3. Spicy Pickled Okra

          pretty standard-

          i water processed the okra pickles-
          i haven't tried them yet

          5 Replies
          1. re: jpr54_1

            i used jalapeno peppers and 1/2of the cumin
            i opened the jar last nite and had some with my hamburger-
            it was delicious not too hot-but good with the burger.
            i will make this again
            simple and not complicated

            1. re: jpr54_1

              Spicy Pickled Okra, p. 23

              I love pickled okra; DH hates okra in any form. So I made a half recipe of this: 1 lb. okra, 2 serrano chiles (I forgot to halve, stem, and seed them, as directed; they went in whole), and 4 cloves garlic went into two jars. Then 1 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar, 1 tap. red pepper flakes, 1 tsp. cumin seed, and 1 tsp. kosher salt got boiled and divided between the two jars. The major change I made was omitting the fresh dill (would have been 1/2 c) as I'm not a big fan of dill.

              I sterilized the jars but did not properly "can" these; they'll have to be refrigerator pickles, but in my experience, they'll keep quite a while in the fridge.

              These are tasty and easy, pretty standard as pickled okra goes--my favorite Bloody Mary garnish and a great snack on a bloody hot afternoon. Mine will not win any beauty contests but I'm glad to have them in the fridge.

              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                Curious as to whether you are a fan of apple cider vinegar. I mean in taste; however, I always prefer a lighter colored brine on my pickles; but sometimes white vinegar can be so harsh.

                I hope they are good whole; later let me know, as I always grow plenty of okra; and I just can't see myself stemming and slicing them.

                All summer long, I eat them one way so this might be a great alternative for us.

                One way is: sliced in rounds, fried hot in olive oil. Sometimes red pepper flakes.

                1. re: Rella

                  Rella--I use them mainly as garnish or quick cool, crunchy snack. I actually like okra in lots of ways (love it smothered with onions and a little tomato until it is completely broken down, as my grandmother used to make it; my aunt would add shrimp or crabmeat to that concoction, and, oh, was that delicious. I love it fried or in Indian preps too. But, alas, my husband depises it so I don't do anything much with it here.)

                  As to cider vinegar, I use it in a number of recipes, so I guess I like its taste, but you got me thinking--and I've very rarely used it to make salad dressing . I used it in this recipe because that's what was stipulated. I do like these pickled pods, btw, though they taste much like any pickled okra I've ever had.

                  1. re: nomadchowwoman

                    I've never even begun to think of shrimp or crab with okra. But now, I'm going to beginning with the first mess from the garden this year.

                    Me thinks I'll try to pickle some whole okra this year, too.

                    Many thanks.

            2. page18
              Blanche's Mustard Pickles

              fairly routine except I water processed pickles

              1. Salsa Fuego - p. 56

                I needed a salsa for a party that did not require access to good tomatoes and this one fit the bill. This is a fairly mild salsa with a very smoky taste from the blackened tomatoes and chipotle. My guests didn't discover it until the end of the night, but it went over well. Truth be told, I'm more of a salsa verde person, but this did bring back memories of Taco Cabana. As an undergraduate, I made way too many meals out of their tortillas & queso and fajita tacos, because it was still dirt cheap, but a step up from Taco Bell.

                To make this salsa, 2 pasilla chiles are toasted and soaked in water for 30 minutes. While they're soaking, a pound of halved plum tomatoes are blackened under the broiler. She says this should take 20 minutes, but mine were not blackened at that point, so I left them in longer. Once they're blackened, the tomatoes are flipped to be cut-side down and onion and garlic is added to be broiled for a bit longer. The tomatoes, soaked chiles, a chipotle in adobo sauce, 1/2 cup of cilantro, and a cup of water are added to a blender and the whole thing blended until smooth. She doesn't say it, but your salsa will still be warm after blending (obviously), you're probably going to want to let it cool before serving.

                1 Reply
                1. re: TxnInMtl

                  As a big fan of this salsa at Taco Cabana, I was disappointed here. It must be said, the recipe for the TC salsa is no where to be found so people just try to imitate it. For me, this had way too much chipotle. It ended up tasting just like a chipotle salsa. It was fine, but not what I was looking for. I ended up making the salsa twice, the second time really roasting the tomatoes black (it takes longer than noted in the recipe) as well as roasting jalepenos at the end, along with the garlic and onion. That made a pretty terrific roasted tomato salsa.

                2. Watermelon Salsa - p. 55

                  Radishes and watermelon were on sale yesterday, so I decided to try this salsa. It's light and refreshing with the serrano adding a bit of heat and the radish giving it a bit more texture when you bite into the salsa. She says you can also make it with cantaloupe and honeydew which sounds interesting to me as well. To make diced watermelon, finely diced radishes, diced red onion (I somehow missed this in the ingredient list yesterday), diced serrano chile (I left the seeds in), chopped cilantro, and lime juice are tossed together. She also calls for cumin, but I omitted it. After my first bite, I worried I made this a bit too spicy for the people I was sharing it with, but it seemed to mellow while the flavors melded. It went over very well and I'd make it again for something a bit different in the salsa department.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: TxnInMtl

                    I make a fairly similar sounding one (without the cumin) with mango (and chili, lime juice, cilantro, and red onion). Love it. I should try this watermelon version - thanks for pointing it out.

                    1. re: LulusMom

                      This was just wonderful. Light, spicy, refreshing. A great counter to a lot of heavy food if you are trying a few recipes from the book. I imagine it would be terrific with cantaloupe as well.

                  2. Ninfa's spicy pickled carrots adapted fromt he Houston Chronicle

                    Re: the oregano, it didn't say whether to use fresh oregano, so I substituted 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram for 1 teaspoon oregano (even though I have fresh oregano in my garden).

                    I was confused about the 1 ounce chiles de arbol, stems removed. I used 3 dried arbols. (6 dried arbols is 1/10 of an ounce dried)

                    re the 1 teasoon black pepper, I was confused as to whether to use 1 teaspoon 'ground', so I used 1/2 teaspoons of black peppercorns.

                    Cooked carrots in the liquid 10 minutes, exactamente.

                    This recipe gave me a measurement of 2 pints which is as stated.

                    Tastes wonderful out of pan, I'm sure will be fabulous after a day or so - says it will keep a month.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Rella

                      See my posting immediately above for Ninfa's spicy pickled carrots adapted from The Houston Chronicle re Homesick Texan.

                      The carrot pickles after a few days is quite strong. I will just use it as a small condiment, as I would a similar jar of pickled jalapenos, although not quite as spicy/hot as a pickled jalapeno. I didn't get a chance to post a pic in my previous post.

                    2. page 48
                      Coffee- chipotle Barbecue Sauce
                      It was not difficult to prepare-I used vegetable oil in place of bacon
                      I made it to go with
                      -Chipotle Oven Brisket

                      the house smells like barbecue

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: jpr54_1

                        jpr54_1 - I notice you have made several recipes in this thread, but we don't know what the outcome was. Please don't forget to come here and tell us whether you enjoy each dish you prepare, and what your impressions are!

                        1. re: L.Nightshade

                          I haven't opened anyof the jars yet-
                          I water processed them so that they can keep.
                          I itasted the coffee chipolte bbq sauce-it wasn't too sweet-the cider vinegar gave it a little twang.

                        2. re: jpr54_1

                          the brisket is not ready yet- i am going tolet it rest when finished and have some tomorrow nite.
                          i did place the bbq sauce on the brisket while in oven-and saved some in pint jar for tomorrow-etc.

                          1. re: jpr54_1

                            Coffee-Chipotle Barbecue Sauce, p. 48

                            I love coffee in BBQ sauce so I decided to make this anticipating 4th of July cooking. I softened some chopped vidalia onion (about 1/2 c) in half canola oil, half butter and then added minced garlic (two fat cloves) and cooked for another minute or so. I dumped in the remaining ingredients: two chipotle chiles in adobo, minced; 1/2 c ketchup; 1/4 c ea cider vinegar, tomato paste, molasses; 1 c brewed coffee; 2 T lemon juice;1 T worcestershhire; 1/2 T black pepper; 1 tsp ea dry mustard and smoked paprika; a pinch ea. of ground nutmeg and clove; salt to taste.
                            I then simmered the sauce for 30-35 minutes. (I also strained it as I prefer a smooth BBQ sauce.)

                            This sauce was thinner than the BBQ sauces I'm used to. I'm also not sure about the taste. It packs a good bit of heat, but it also tasted a little muddy to me. It could be that this sauce is meant for beef, and when I make BBQ sauce, it's always for pork.
                            But I'll likely fiddle with it some more before using it, maybe add a little honey and something fruity to it and cook it down a little more.

                          2. Yesterday when I went to the farmers market they had beautiful peaches I boughtt some..
                            While I was in cooking mode today I also made

                            Habanero Pickled Peaches

                            Instead of habaneros I used dried jalapanos-I left pits in put -but peeied the peaches.
                            Peeling the peaches was the hard part..
                            I placed peaches in 1 quart jar with spices and liquid-
                            I am not going to process them-I will place in refigerator fora few days+
                            The liquid was sweet but not icky-and smelled good with addition of spices
                            the liquid had a pick tinge to iit-it will make a nice for icecream.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: jpr54_1

                              [Scotch Bonnet] Pickled peaches, p. 27

                              jpr54 and I obviously have been drawn to the same condiments! I have peaches, peaches, everywhere so I decided to try these, following the very easy recipe to a tee except that I used a scotch bonnet instead of a habanero as that's what was available at my favorite FM pepper vendor's. I had no trouble peeling my peaches; like jpr54's, my brine has a pinkish cast to it.

                              I've made pickled peaches twice before, once with star anise and a few other spices and another time with lots of black peppercorns and I can't recall what else, but neither was super spicy so I look forward to seeing how these compare once I open them. I've got in mind making a little salad with a peach half, a little chevre, a sprinkle of toasted pistachios, and a few fresh raspberries.

                            2. Houston Style Green Salsa, p. 59

                              This, of all the things I loved eating in Houston, is the thing I missed most. I hadn't a clue how to make it. Then I found Lisa's website. Which lead me to the cookbook. Both of which make immensely satisfying green salsa

                              The cookbook version is a simplified version of the website version and the book admits the difference. I like that and would make either, based on the ingredients I have on hand. I even learned to grow tomatillos just for this recipe.

                              I love this recipe. I love it on Queso Suiso (flour tortillas filled with grilled chicken and topped with melted cheese.) I love it covering a buritto filled with carnitas and melting cheese. I could make a meal out of chips and this green sausa (and I have done this at Ninfa's in Houston, to the point of taking my ordered meal home with me. (I'm on the verge of sounding like a particular scene in Forest Gump)

                              I have such faith in this sauce that I took a British friend and co-worker who was visiting from Wales who said he didn't like anything green....well, I broke him in with this green sauce, then guacamole, then finished his green problem off with chili rellenos.

                              This is the sauce. I smile just thinking about the crop of tomatillos and tomatoes growing in my backyard. With cilantro on the side.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: shallots

                                Wow this post is quite a recommendation for that salsa! But I don't see it on the website --
                                unless it is this: ?

                                1. re: blue room

                                  Yes, Blue Room, that's the website site for Ninfa's sauce. I had forgotten she wrote about eating it by the spoonful. (I thought I was the only one.)

                                  1. re: shallots

                                    I've also been known to do that! I've been making her website version for a while now. I need to try the book simplifications soon.

                                2. re: shallots

                                  Houston-style green salsa p.59

                                  shallots - that's funny you mention your Brit and Welsh friends. As a Brit, now in New England, I am really unfamiliar with most of the recipes in this book. I decided to make this salsa to go with Carnitas (p.201) and it was the first time I had ever made either recipe and the first time I had cooked with tomatillos. I really liked the salsa - it was really easy to make, the flavor is very fresh, and it's very healthy. I had plenty of salsa left over after using it with the carnitas and flour tortillas. I have been eating it as a dip with baby carrots. I would happily eat it with lots of dishes.

                                  1. re: shallots

                                    Houston Style Green Salsa, p. 59

                                    I made this for a party last night. In the past, I've made the original Ninfa's version she has on her web site, but I forgot to pick up some green tomatoes, so I thought I'd give this simplified version a try instead. For me, this one just didn't satisfy the craving for the creaminess of othe original, but my guests devoured it and raved about it (although most kept trying to call it guacamole).

                                    1. re: shallots

                                      I made this salsa this morning-
                                      followed recipe and added cherry tomatoes
                                      i also used green spring onions and in place of celanto i used flat leaf parsley

                                      I placed salsa on my hamburger

                                    2. Jalapeno Buttermilk Dressing – p. 49

                                      An interesting and unique (to me) dressing. Fresh with very “green” flavours. We love buttermilk dressings, ranch in particular so this dressing held immediate appeal. It’s also called for in a coleslaw recipe from the book so there was further incentive to make this multi-tasking sauce.

                                      Prep is straightforward. Into a blender goes jalapenos, garlic, cilantro (parsley in my case), cumin, paprika, lime zest and buttermilk. Ingredients are blended to make a green puree. Puree is incorporated w mayo and sour cream then seasoned w S&P.

                                      When I tasted the dressing prior to seasoning, I felt it was a little grassy-tasting and flat. I do recognize cilantro would produce different results however I’m unable to use it due to an allergy. To boost the flavours, I added approx a tbsp of lime juice. This did brighten the dressing and brought out the tartness of the buttermilk.

                                      We liked this and felt it was better; good even, on the coleslaw (review to follow) however, I think we’d have preferred buttermilk to be the star of this dressing where in fact, there is only 1/4c of buttermilk to the 1/2c each of mayo and sour cream.

                                      JF does suggest this can be used as a dip for fried foods. If I fry something while it’s still fresh I’ll report back.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                        I made this today as well - to have on salad in lieu of typical ranch. I did use the cilantro and found the dressing tasty. I completly agree with your not enough buttermilk assessment. In fact I probably used 1/2 cup because there was no way my blender could blend that stuff with so little liquid. I still thought more would be nice. My husband thought more jalapeño would have been nice. This will be repeated at my house.

                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                          I loved this dressing. I made it as directed and will make it many times again. Tossed with the cabbage slaw, it was excellent as well.

                                        2. I am curious-what do ppl expect from review of recipe?
                                          are there specific questions to answer?

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: jpr54_1

                                            Reviewing a recipe is an inexact science. You will see many different approaches. Here is what I try to do:

                                            1. If first review of the recipe, a summary of the process of making the item.
                                            2. Mentioning any modifications you made, including ingredient substitutions, etc.
                                            3. But the big one is, how did it taste?
                                            4. Are there any modifications you would use in the future if you did the recipe a second time?

                                            1. re: smtucker

                                              That's a very useful breakdown of a recipe review, SMT, and it's basically what I've been trying to do as well.

                                              The only thing I would add is that a Title of the review is a handy reference. That is: Name of the recipe, page number and if necessary: the Book title if we're cooking from several books instead of one.

                                              Also, it's quite nice to see all the reviews of others who have made the same recipe following the original review. That's made by hitting the "Reply" box directly under the original review not the "Reply To Original Post" button at the
                                              bottom of the page...

                                              To post an original review click on Rely to Original Post.

                                          2. Jalapeno Relish
                                            page #31
                                            the recipe was fairly simple
                                            i didn't use cilantro(allergic to it)
                                            substituted flat leaf parsley-i also used red spring onions
                                            i added another teaspoon of sugar and 1 +Tbl. vingar
                                            i place 1 in 1/2 ptjar and nother in plastic container-noprocessing of either
                                            the relish tasted good-I will use it on hamburger or condiment for steak in place of bbq sauce
                                            I will definitely make it again with some addiitional veggies.
                                            I didn't mind the cumin-only a small amount

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: jpr54_1

                                              I just added some of the relish to macaroni and cheese and it was delicious-i know it sounds strange but i will add it again

                                              1. re: jpr54_1

                                                i added mashed avocado to the remainder of relish not processed-

                                              2. re: jpr54_1

                                                Jalapeno Relish, p. 31

                                                This may be my favorite of the relatively few recipes I've tried. I love the way it looks (my photo does it no justice), vaguely jewel-like, and it's proved pretty versatile--perks up tartar sauce to go with fish and shrimp; makes a fine dressing, mixed with buttermilk and a little mayo, for avocado and tomato salad; is great, according to DH, on both a hot dog and a grilled bratwurst sandwich; I can't wait to try it on a taco. I can imagine a bit of this w/cheese grits--or insorporated into a cheese omelette.

                                                I made this on a day that one of the FM vendors had a slew of multi-colored jalapenos, so I used a nice mix, along with an heirloom plum tomato from the same vendor, some Vidalia onion, garlic, cumin, cilantro (a bit more than the recipe calls for), cider vinegar, sugar, lime juice, and salt. After a whiz in the FP, I found the relish a little more liquid-y than I liked, so I drained off some of it and jarred the relish.

                                                This is a very handy--and quite tasty--condiment to have on hand. I'll definitely make this again.

                                                1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                  Your jars of food pictures and their related posts from this book are all lovely today. You've been quite busy. Thanks for posting.

                                                  1. re: Rella

                                                    Thanks, Rella., you are very kind. I made these jarred things early in the game, before leaving for two weeks. I tried a couple of other recipes and then I kind of lost interest in the book. I've found several more recipes I'd like to try, but not in the brutal heat we're experiencing.

                                              3. Breakfast Sausage - p. 66
                                                http://homesicktexan.blogspot.ca/2008... (recipe appears to be identical except for the book specifying dried herbs and kosher salt


                                                For some reason, I've been having a craving for sausage biscuit sandwiches. This recipe hit the spot. It's also extremely easy and requires no special dried chiles. To make, ground pork is mixed with dried sage, dried marjoram, dried thyme, red pepper flakes (I used hot shattered paprika), cayenne, brown sugar, salt and pepper. The meat mixture is then shaped into sausage patties and fried for 6 minutes on each side. I made some buttermilk biscuits to go with the sausage (not using her recipe) and encouraged people to split the biscuit in half and eat as a sandwich. The sausage had a nice bit of heat and reminded me of childhood when my parents would always have Owens sausage biscuits on hand for weekend breakfasts (although I'm fairly certain this was better). The bf approved of these as well and I'll certainly make them again whenever a craving hits.

                                                1. Salsa Verde with[out] Papalo, http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com/200...

                                                  This is a wonderful avocado-tomatillo salsa. We loved it!

                                                  I rough-chopped tomatillos, serrano chiles, an avocado, cilantro, and garlic and threw it in my food processor with some lime juice and salt. A quick whiz and we were good to go.

                                                  I made the following changes to the recipe: I used cilantro instead of papalo, which is a recommended variation (I used about 1/2 cup as she suggests), 3 garlic cloves instead of 4, and 1 serrano chile instead of 3. My one chile was huge and very hot, and I wanted my toddler to be able to eat the salsa so I left it on the mild side. I think in an ideal world I would have liked two chiles, but three would have been overpowering! The salsa was a bit flat when I took it out of the FP. I added a bit more lime juice and then it was really singing.

                                                  As I said, we loved this salsa and it was great with the carnitas. Also, it was very quick and easy as nothing had to be cooked or finely chopped by hand. I lived in Austin more than 10 years ago, and I have to say I still miss Texas salsa! This was great, very authentic and flavorful. It had a true Texas sensibility, and I'll be trying some of her other salsa recipes for sure.

                                                  1. Summer Squash Pickles p.24

                                                    This is a simple pickling recipe, using yellow squash and zucchini. It was excellent. It uses cumin seeds, which many on the board don't seem to like. It wasn't overpowering, though, and the squash pickles quickly. We served it the day of (about 6 hours later) and everyone tore through them.

                                                    1. Houston Style Green Salsa -

                                                      This was my favorite of all the salsas in the book.. and we made most of them. My friend made this one (we cooked a lot of recipes from the book for some friends) so I can't describe her process. I do know she used the Ninfa's recipe on the website, which is a little more elaborate. Great stuff.