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Learn how to make cucumber salad and green tomatillo salsa

Two smiling women give a cooking demonstration.
Monica Chavez makes cucumber salad with fresh vegetables from the La Milpa restaurant garden.

Virginia Home Grown recently featured the garden where La Milpa grows many of their own fresh ingredients including tomatillos, tomatoes, peppers and cilantro. Owners Martin Gonzalez and Monica Chavez started the garden about five years ago to not only provide quality produce for the restaurant, but also to maintain Mexican agricultural traditions like growing in chinampas (floating artificial islands where plants take in water from below), and to make their business more sustainable by cutting back on the amount of product that needed to shipped to the restaurant.

In the studio Monica demonstrated how to make cucumber salad and green tomatillo salsa. You can make these fresh and easy dishes by following these recipes:

Cucumber Salad

Close up chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onion and cilantro mixed into a salad.
La Milpa
This summer salad features the colors of the Mexican flag with red tomato, white onion, and green cucumber.

2 medium sized cucumbers diced.
1 round tomato ripe diced.
1/2 small white onion diced.
2 tbsp cilantro rinsed and coarsely chopped.

1/4 cup Olive Oil.
1 key lime juice.
1/2 tbsp oregano.
Salt to taste.

Just mix the ingredients in a bowl. For the dressing, combine the ingredients in a tightly closed jar and shake it very well to allow the lemon juice and olive oil to become creamier.

- This salad is a classic for Summer, since you can find the ingredients fresh from the garden and prepare something easy, healthy and delicious.
- The smaller the pieces, the more the flavors of each ingredient are integrated into one.
- You can experiment with different options. For a more Mediterranean flavor, the cilantro can be swapped for basil and mint, the white onion for red onion.
- Some people prefer the cucumber seeded, because it can cause bloating.
- More ingredients can be added, like avocado diced, lettuce, grilled chicken, etc. Your imagination is the limit.

Green Tomatillo Salsa

Green tomatillo salsa prepared in a stone mortar and pestle.
La Milpa
Roasting green tomatillos and serrano peppers gives this salsa a smokey flavor.

7 small Green tomatillos, husked and rinsed
3 Serrano peppers
1/4 small White Onion
1 Garlic clove
1 tbsp Oil
2 tbsp Cilantro. Rinsed and coarsely chopped

Roast in a pan all the ingredients, except the cilantro and salt, until the tomatillos feel soft and charred. Grind part of the ingredients with a mortar (our favorite is a mortar made of stone, called Molcajete), add a pinch of salt and water to get the texture of a sauce. Do the same with the rest of the ingredients. Transfer to a bowl and thin out as desired with water. Taste and adjust salt. Place in the fridge and serve cold, it allows the flavors to develop.

- Roasting the ingredients gives a deep, toasty flavor.
- Seeded serranos make a milder salsa. 3 peppers make a medium spicy salsa.
- Grinding the ingredients in a mortar, instead of using a blender, gives a very different flavorand texture.
- If prefer blend it, must wait for the ingredients to cool off.
- This tangy salsa is very versatile and can use with shrimp, fish, chicken, pork, vegetables and, of course, for tacos!

You can watch our visit to the La Milpa restaurant garden at this link.


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