To speak Spanish well is a goal in my life. But there never seems to be enough time to take classes at home—so I go to Mexico, to Spanish immersion school. I started this post in the airport in Mexico City, after 3 fabulous weeks, two of them in Cuernavaca, which is a 2 hour (first class) bus ride south. Thank goodness someone told me about and Cuernavaca Language School and “home-stay” with Carmen. Carmen is a wonderful cook as well a friend, so much that we feel like sisters, though she is a friend to many, since she teaches at the school and has welcomed students into her home for many, many years. This is my favorite dinner and we had them twice; I think even spinach haters wouldn’t be able to resist.
I traveled home with my last meal; even on an international flight from Mexico there wasn’t so much as a pack of peanuts. So I wouldn’t be forced to buy airport food, Carmen made me “para llevar.” I carried a couple flour tortilla rolls, filled with avocado, half of a spinach torta, and slices of tomato and queso Oaxaca, a melty cheese, kind of like mozzarella. I am pretty sure the person next to me on the flight was envious.
2 bunches spinach, washed well and stems removed
¼ white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon RealSalt
Freshly ground black pepper
Finely ground bread crumbs, as needed, about 3 tablespoons
About 1 ounce sharp white cheddar cheese or queso anejo, cut in little pieces
Olive oil, as needed
6 large fresh tomatillos, or one small can
1 or 2 seranno chiles, trimmed and coarsely chopped (Carmen uses 2)
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons chopped white onion
¼ teaspoon salt, to taste
¼ to ½ cup vegetable stock, as needed
Olive oil, as needed
To make the spinach tortas:
Steam the spinach leaves about 5 minutes. Allow to drain in a colander or sieve, pressing well to remove excess water. Coarsely chop the spinach.
In a bowl, mix with the chopped onion, garlic and cilantro. Using a fork, stir in the eggs, salt and pepper. Stir in some breadcrumbs, just enough so that the mixture holds together.
In the palm of your hand, shape the spinach mixture into small round patties, and as you do, put 4 or 5 little pieces for the cheese in the middle. For each torta use about 1/3 cup of the spinach mixture, forming them about 2 ½ inches wide.
Over medium flame, heat a thin layer of the oil in a large skillet. Gently cook the patties, turning to cook both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the heat while you prepare the sauce.
To make the Salsa Verde:
Drop the tomatillos into boiling water and cook for several minutes, mostly to remove the paper-like skin. Place the clean tomatillos, serrano chile(s), onion and garlic and salt in a blender and whirl. Heat a small amount of olive oil in another skillet and add the tomatillo mixture. Cook and stir for 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in vegetable broth, just enough to thin the sauce. Season to taste with salt. Pour on top of the spinach tortas and over medium heat, cook them together a few minutes.
Serve 2 Tortas per person, with Mexican rice and Frijoles de Olla.
Makes about 6 patties, serves 3.