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Serious Salsa: Serrano Salsa Verde

This serrano salsa verde is extremely versatile, but it's especially good with beef.

When I recently ordered a taco al carbon at one of favorite Mexico City taquerias, the server brought out the usual array of table salsas. There was a tart, bright-red salsa chunky with fresh onions and cilantro. There was a smoky chipotle salsa sweet with pineapple. And there was a bright green salsa, thin and smooth.

When I reached for the spoon in the green salsa, my server cautioned me, saying that the salsa was fiery. "Tiene mucha fuego!" he said.

I suppose that with my light hair and blue eyes it may look like I can't handle the heat, but I told him I grew up in Texas, and snack on habaneros for fun.

I then liberally doused the green salsa all over my beef taco and took a bite.

He was correct. This was a fiery salsa--but it was a quick burn that didn't appear to do much harm to your lips or insides. And this salsa was fresh. If green could have a taste, this would be it.

Most green salsas use tomatillos as a base, but this salsa didn't have a tomatillo's signature tang. And this salsa was almost evenly green, whereas salsa verde made with tomatillos will be riddled with countless seeds. I was curious about this salsa, so I asked my server how it was made.

He refused to tell me--insisting that it was the taqueria's secret recipe. But secret or not, I had no shame and begged the server to tell me how the salsa was made. Finally, after much cajoling, the server revealed the recipe. It wasn't that much of a surprise: As I suspected, it was just a purée of serrano chiles, onion, garlic and cilantro. Such a simple salsa and yet so satisfying.

We've had an abundance of serrano chiles at the farmers' market, and I can think of no better way to put a large bag of them to use. It's an extremely versatile salsa, but I especially love it with beef.

About the author: Lisa Fain is a seventh-generation Texan who now hangs her hat in New York City. To keep in touch with her roots, she writes and photographs the food blog Homesick Texan.

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